Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Let It Go!

As we rush/stagger/grind/step towards the end of the year, many of us reflect on what was and what may be. While I encourage this (not just once a year, but every quarter/month/week - as best you can), it seems that "resolutions" - regardless of when they occur, rarely last. On average, only 15% of those who make New Year's resolutions keep them for at least 30 days. What a shame!

Part of the problem most have with adopting new behaviors is that they are still embedded in the rut of old habits (muscle memory and/or mental hang-ups.) Here's the key that all successful professionals know: Before you can successfully follow a new path, you have to stop walking the old, less-effective path. In other words: what keeps us from adopting effective new habits is INeffective old habits.

Japanese culture has some interesting rituals for the transition between one year and the next. For example, many hold "ending of the year parties" (called "bounenkai" - or "forget the year"), where they ceremoniously cut ties with anything holding them back from growing/improving for the upcoming year. Another tradition is called "osoji", where everyone deep cleans their homes, offices, and schools to literally begin the new year with a "clean slate". While I don't follow these practices, I do appreciate the acknowledging of how we must create closure for one chapter before we can successfully begin a new chapter.

So, as you begin making plans for your next chapter, please consider what you need to STOP doing - or let go of - BEFOREHAND. Once you've confronted that detrimental anchor, then and only then will you be free to sail forward towards whatever exciting new adventure you have in your heart.

One final word of encouragement: If you're not living the life of your dreams, then why not? When are you planning to live your unique purpose? No matter where you are today, the very best time to begin is NOW. Don't wait another day. No more settling. Take the first few steps and you will begin to see an amazing shift in momentum toward the lifestyle you've always wanted.

You will never regret it, I promise. I can guarantee you the inevitable: you'll regret not starting sooner if you wait.

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Alternative To Change

If you don't like change, I understand. But you're going to like mediocrity a WHOLE lot less.

The real problem with change is, despite what many claim, it is NOT always good. In the real world, we've all been burned by change at one time. So, what's the alternative? Don't focus on change - focus on improvement!

Here's the TRUTH about legitimate improvement in your life:

1. The definition of "improved" is determined by YOU.
2. Improvement, by definition, must be different...but different in YOUR direction!

Bottom line: All improvement requires change, but not all change is an improvement.

Are you clear about what you want that is different/better? If not, invest some time to figure that out. (Today would be good.)

Are you willing to take action and DO what is required to create that improvement? If not, then prepare yourself for a life of pain and disappointment. Regardless of what all those foolish Secret/Name It, Claim It fad philosophies claim, it doesn't happen by magic...and no one will do it for you. (The good news? The effort is worth it. Really!)

Here's an interesting factoid to consider: Have you noticed that only about 5% of people who make New Year's resolutions see them come to fruition? What percentage of people do you consider to be truly successful in life? About 5%? Do you think there's a connection? I believe in both cases, it's simply because the successful people are clear about what they want/what direction to move in order to improve, AND they invest the required effort to achieve their goals. That's not always fun or sexy, but it works at Disney and other world-class companies, consistently. (Yes, ANYone can be successful!)

Are you setting the stage for an improved new year? If not, why not?

How will 2011 be different/better than 2010 for you? What will YOU do differently/better to actually make your goals a reality this time? (Hint: The best time to start is NOW!)

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Facebook Versus Face Time

A key to both business and personal success is how well we can really connect with others. What works best to really connect with someone: Meeting in person? Calling them? Talking to them? Talking with them? Mailing them? Emailing them? Texting data/information? Sharing opinions? Sharing feelings? Sharing secrets?? The options continue to grow!

Obviously, the start of the answer is appropriately connecting using whatever resources are available. At Disney, we asked WHY we wanted to connect to determine the best option. Best long-term solution? Quality rather than quantity. And no, they are not mutually exclusive - you can have both!

Today, much is being discussed about the varying forms of social media: Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. There's nothing wrong with those tools as long as they are each considered as only a part of your efforts to truly connect.

Oftentimes, we get caught up in being so focused on a task that we forget that how the task is done is just as (many say even more) important. Appropriately including your personality in the sharing of information is what makes all the difference. After all, if there's no "you" in the interaction, then they could've gotten the information from some inanimate computer or something. "You" are not required. If that isn't unsettling, it should be.

Think about any recent interaction you've had. Here's a simple test: After the interaction, did the person know more about you, understand more clearly how you are aligned, or like you/respect you more than when they started the interaction? If not, it was probably not engaging. "You" added no special value. Your role could have been automated...and will be - unless you do something about it.

Want to improve? Here's a challenge for you: Think about the people you want to really connect with. What access methods (face-to-face, phone, email, text, social media, etc.) do they value? [Tip: Use those methods] The next time you have the opportunity, purposefully ask questions about potential ways your interests overlap. Discuss common opinions and feelings about issues that are relevant. Focus on how you interact and make sure it engages the other person.

Then watch how your connection dramatically improves.

Then watch how your business improves!

Think about it. But more importantly do something about!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Cutting Through The Fog Of The Unknown

Coming to the end of one year and the beginning of another brings to mind "the future". Most of us do some sort of business forecasting (even if it is informal) to determine how we want to position ourselves to be as successful as possible in the coming year.

Forecasting your future is complicated by the many unknowns - after all, the future hasn't happened yet. However, being brutally honest about your current reality can serve as a good launching point for the near-term future. Here are a few "behind-the-scenes" questions we explored at Disney that you may want to consider:
  • What's really happening in the world? What trends/needs are becoming obvious and likely to be long versus short term?
  • What different/better offerings are missing that your target market values?
  • What are your (potential?) capabilities that could service/take advantage of those trends?
  • Do you have the team and knowledge in place that can service those developing trends/needs?
  • Do you have or can you find the resources to service those developing trends/needs?
  • Are you willing to make the effort to position yourself and execute the actions required?
Connect these dots and you will begin to clear the fog (and thus the fear) of the unknown. Rather than only doing this once a year, consider doing this every 3 months - or even more often, if your work dynamics call for it. The more you attend to the reality of your situation, the easier it is to influence it.

Having the discipline to make time beforehand to strategically explore these issues and then the assertive drive to execute your plan will determine your results. Don't wait until New Years to make the traditional "resolutions". The only way to get a jump on your competition is to start before they do.

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Becoming A "Clutch" Leader

After watching several intense sports match ups this week, I noticed that something interesting happens at critical moments in each game: Leaders - both on the field and off - make decisions (or not) and take action (or not) that ultimately determines the outcome. Oftentimes, in the battle of two opposing teams, one leader will "choke" when everything is at stake.

What creates success in these high-pressure scenarios? What brings leaders through "in the clutch"?

When I was in charge of leadership initiatives at Disney, it was interesting to see what set the most effective leaders apart from the average leaders. A recent study done for the US military reveals some of the same insights that my team discovered when exploring what made the most significant difference:

  • Focus - Are you focused on the details that strategically relevant to this particular situation? Can you ignore any superfluous activity while leading through the challenge?
  • Discipline - Are you able to consistently follow up and generate accountability? Are you a legitimate role model with integrity?
  • Adaptability - Are you able to learn from the past, yet let go of everything that doesn't serve you or your team in this unique situation? Is there another (different) right answer?
  • Being Present - Are you able to "fly by the seat of your pants" and make decisions during the "real time" process of gathering problem solving information?
  • Fear/Desire - Are you appropriately motivated (either by fear or desire) enough to passionately move forward - despite the circumstances?

How do you measure up when it comes to these traits? What life experiences can you get involved in (now!) that can help you better develop these traits?

Your future teams - and your leadership career - will reflect your actions today regarding your leadership during difficult times. Do you want to be known as the leader who comes through in the clutch? Then...

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Getting Extraordinary with Ordinary

I'm not much into formulas. I'm not a number-crunching/stats kinda guy - over and beyond the bottom line "what are the results?" type. However, after many years of talking with other leaders about what it takes to get superior results, most are stunned to hear what I have found while working with dozens of Fortune 500 companies:

Ordinary tactics + discipline = Extraordinary results.

Let me explain:

Have you noticed that when you read about what world-class companies say they do to achieve amazing outcomes, you (like most professionals) think "well, that's obvious" or "that makes sense"? Most of what these outstanding businesses do is not super-secret, mysterious proprietary strategies or tools. They follow a path to success that has been followed by many other consistently successful companies before them. the have leaders that are role models. they engage their employees in working together effectively and in creating innovative solutions. The exceed the expectations of their external customers by attending to the details that they care most about throughout their entire experience. they focus on low/no cost investments that make good business sense for the long-term.

Then why isn't everyone getting world-class results as well? They don't (sufficiently) focus on the "ordinary" discipline of consistent implementation. They fail to be consistent/fair in their accountability of behaviors. They don't take the risk of being courageous enough to be transparent in how they face the truth/reality of their individual and team performance. Ordinary "do the right thing" effort has, unfortunately, become uncommon.

It's easier to talk the talk than to walk the walk. It's easier to write a bonus check than to have a thoughtful token of appreciation. It's easier to entertain the idea of success rather than experience the sacrifice required to achieve it.

There's nothing extraordinary about proven strategies - we know what to do. If we're not getting the results, it's because we simply fail to:
- take a cold, unblinking look at ourselves
- take the time to identify root causes and the natural consequences
- invest in building healthy, long-term working relationships
- won't consistently make the constantly-required behaviors that lead to the results we desire

Those who want the easy way out always balk at this truth. It's not sexy or "business as usual". But it is simple - and what has been proven to work. Just look at those renowned organizations who are experiencing consistent success. What works - works!

So if you want extraordinary results, simply look to proven (ordinary) tactics and the tried and true (ordinary) discipline of implementing those tactics. If you need help, go out and get it, but no one achieves real success until they bridge this gap. NO one.

So, you want to be a SOMEone, or a NO one?

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Not Just Hardware

I just returned from serving as a judge for the Singapore Experience Awards - an event that honors the best business practices (and results) of organizations across industries throughout Singapore. While the visit to Singapore was excellent as always, this particular trip provided an interesting new insight.

An executive of a large international technology corporation mentioned that their renowned success throughout the world was not the result of their amazing hardware, but of what he called "heartware" - the passion of his engaged employees. He recognized that without their passion for innovation and executing their plans to the highest standard, their products would simply be more in a market of mediocre "things".

Interesting that, in a land that is so well known for how they embrace technology, they have the strategic wisdom to place a premium on what actually creates that technology.

A rare insight we could all benefit from, I think.

Consider all the competitors in your industry. For the most part, you all have access to the same resources - offices, office supplies, computers, raw materials, time, etc. What typically determines the outcomes of an organization is how they utilize those common resources. The best do so in decidedly UNcommon ways.

When was the last time you focused on upgrading YOUR "heartware" at work? By shifting how you select, train, communicate, and reward your team you can transform what you achieve with your resources. Or, as Walt Disney once said "taking ordinary resources and creating extraordinary results" optimize your competitive edge.

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Recruiting For Keeps

I just finished a session with a European association of Human Resource professionals who are struggling with their recruitment efforts. The common complaint is that "there are no good people to hire". Actually, the truth is that there are PLENTY of good people out there. The real challenge is that they already have jobs working elsewhere. (After all, why would a legitimate good quality employee be out of a job...really? If you create a great culture, they will come to you!)

While many people asked questions about how to get more people to fill vacancies, the real root problem is two-fold:

1. Not keeping existing "right fit" talent
2. Not selecting new "right fit" talent

Employee retention is a chronic challenge for most organizations. Taking care of the people you have is a full-time job. Maintenance is not my strength, but I've always made sure that I engaged an internal support system to ensure people felt supported and cared for. Open communication, rewards & recognition, personal development, and mutual respect are just some of the tools you can use to create a culture that remains dynamic and attractive. When people are involved, they can create the kind of workplace that jazzes them most - every day. Involvement is directly correlated to engagement, buy-in, and ownership. When people are in an environment where they can connect with their passion and really make a difference every day, they will actually fight rather than leave.

As for not selecting "right fit" talent, this is usually the result of either not knowing how to articulate the non-negotiables of your unique culture (values, vision, standards, personality, etc.), or a lack of discipline in holding out for a right fit - instead hiring any warm body to fill the position short-term. Regarding this last issue, I've found that the team will bear the wait longer if they a) understand the value of holding out for a good fit colleague, b) are confident that the person selecting the new colleague has the same criteria as they do for "right fit", and c) the person selecting the new hire is working as hard as they are covering the additional responsibilities.)

When you hire the right people and maintain the relationship, it will continue to grow and stay healthy...just like any dynamic relationship. (Feel free to test this in your personal relationships too!)

And, yes, YOU can influence your recruitment process.

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Results, Not Effort

I'm noticing a growing problem in the workplace today. More and more people are defending their value based on how "hard" they are working - as if the amount of effort they expend means anything.

Those who know me know that I value hard work (I have no patience for laziness - in thought OR deed!), but working a lot and accomplishing little is moronic.

There, I said it.

If a logger works hard, spending all day trying to cut down a big tree with a penknife when they could be using a chainsaw, do we applaud their effort? Of course not. We call him foolish! Loggers are valued by how many trees they cut down. The amount of time or effort they spend doesn't add any additional value. It simply isn't relevant to the outcome.

The weird thing about human nature is that we tend to judge others by their results while we judge ourselves by our intent. [Enter loud buzzer sound here.] Sorry. This doesn't (and will never) be acceptable to any logical, fair-minded person.

The measuring criteria is results. Period.

In the real world, we earn value by creating it. Effort and time are things that are spent. Hopefully, our energy and time is invested in a way that creates more value than we used. If not, we chose poorly. If so, then we are growing our resources and influence - and benefit because of that.

Value is defined by the one "purchasing" the outcome - whether an employer or the recipient of the effort. An employee who can create ten quality widgets an hour (regardless of effort) will always be worth more than someone who creates less. If you are exerting more time/effort than others on a particular activity and producing less, rethink your approach. Either learn do be more effective or switch to something that is more aligned with your personal strengths.

Spending more time and effort defending your lack of results is, well, an additional waste of time and effort...because it will not result in a better result. It just sounds like whining (definition of whining = "anger coming out of too small a hole." Ha!)

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Gaining The Power To Make A Difference

Had an interesting conversation with a client last week about making a difference. He said he wanted to but felt powerless to actually make it happen. Here are some relevant insights/options that might be relevant to what you are going through:

First of all, all power is actually based on the influence you have in a particular situation - either over things or people.

When I was in charge of Leadership initiatives for the Disney Institute, my team discovered that the most successful leaders at Disney first influenced people so that they could affect things and lead people (followers) accordingly.

That said, there are many different ways to gain power/influence:

  • What you have - When you have money/resources, you are of value to others and can influence accordingly. Keep in mind that your "stuff" is not you. If your resources go away, so does you influence/power.
  • Who you know - Are you influential with those who are influential? Meet them, get to know them, and be worthy of their trust/respect.
  • What you know - Develop yourself so that you know information or have skills regarding something of value to others. An important thing to know is what matters to the people you want to make a difference with - and what is currently influencing that situation.
  • Who you are - Do people care about you? Do they admire you? Do they fear you? If so, they will be willing to do things for you - including tap into their resources. (FYI: The fear condition is always short-term and always backfires.)

Bottom line: The most sustainable strategy is to be a person of integrity and connect with people - proving that you are trustworthy and care about them. Then develop yourself with what you know (education) and what you can do (skill). Who you know and what you have may ebb and flow with time, but relationships and abilities (when properly maintained) will provide all the influence and power you'll need to make a difference.

Have you identified what legacy you want to leave? What is your passion? What worthwhile goals do you have that help those you care most about?

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Monday, September 13, 2010

What Vision Tool Lacks True Vision?

I've been noticing a disturbing trend. It involves people focusing themselves on their future.

Now, I'm all for people being strategic about where they want to go. I'm a huge advocate, in fact. My problem is the way some folks are going about this very important task.

They're creating "Vision Boards".

I'm not even really against Vision Boards (where people cut out and post pictures that represent their vision for their best future as a form of daily inspiration/reminder.) I just have an issue with the way a lot of people (most?) are doing them...because they are severely missing the point and undermining themselves.

Most people cut out photos of homes, cars, vacation spots, jewelry, expensive clothes, etc. - in other words "things". Of course, owning things is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. It's just that "things" are an outcome of being successful - NOT success. Trust me. Having all the "toys" is nice, but despite enjoying them, it is not what makes you successful or happy. Once you get the "things" - what next?

It is much more helpful to develop a Vision that reflects a more noble (unchanging) goal: who you want to BE. The difference you want to make. The impact you'll have on people's lives. Not as easy to find magazine photos of these things, but they are the real, deep-seeded driver that inspires/motivated your efforts in the long run.

Success is really about others. Things are usually about self.

Ironically, your "self" benefits most when you benefit others best.

So, what's your "True North"? Is it compelling you to grow and improve today? Are you moving in the right direction?

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Multiplying Your Impact

I had an interesting conversation this week with a client about how they seem busier than ever, but don't seem to be accomplishing as much as they need to.

A pretty common problem, based on what I've heard and seen lately.

Lots of challenges: high expectations, people are struggling/desperate, competitors are intensifying their efforts to gain/keep market share, tension at work...and at home.

The real problem is that expecting a "one for one" return on your time/effort is no longer a sustainable proposition. More and more resources are available that can multiply efforts, so that is becoming the benchmark.

The solution?

1. Make sure that you are moving in the right direction. [Is it your passion? Does it align with your personal Values? Is it what your customers - whether in your personal or professional life - really, truly want?]

2. Connect with pre-existing, natural networks. [For example: if you sell widgets, identify (or start!) a widget-users association of people who are passionate about widgets. Make the very best widgets possible. Provide value. Invest effort to be an influential authority within that community. Enlist your new fans to participate in connecting the dots between their passion and your product. If you honestly deserve their business, the value of your product/service will spread like wildfire throughout this pre-existing network of passionate members.]

3. Connect with various types of social marketing venues [Even if, like me, your forte is not technical or social networking, you can partner with those who provide this service. Chances are your passionate, loyal customers will handle spreading the word if you simply give them access to you.]

This effort will guarantee that others - whether in person or via social networking, etc. - will multiply your efforts. When your activities align with who you are, your customers, and the most effective forms of connecting all those dots, you (via "they") will multiply your impact.

Think about it. But more importantly - do something about!

Friday, August 27, 2010

How Many Days Have You Lived?

I was working with a client organization the other day and saw a sign in the machine shop. It was one of those typical signs that state how many days the team had gone without an accident. During my conversation with the shop manager, we discussed the previous day's leadership workshop on aligning Values, Talent, and Vision and how it related to the common safety sign.

People keep track of things that are important. Things like safety. Why then, do we not measure other things that are just as/more important?

For example, the client's safety sign read "123 days without an accident". Why don't we have a sign in our homes that read "18,250 days that I haven't died?" Unfortunately (or fortunately), we can't have a sign with the number of days we have left in life. I'd bet that would be a sign everyone would pay attention to.

Maybe I was wondering about this because I had just gotten news of the unexpected death of a friend's husband. We don't often think of how many days we've been alive - or that those days are numbered...somewhere. Maybe we should. How would that change our results in life?

Imagine instead if we had a sign that measured how many days we really lived! This was the discussion I had with the manager. "What if people were focused on what was truly important to them (Values), and what they were best at doing (Talent) that propelled them forward towards a goal that was compelling and desirable for them (Vision)"? As their leader, his job is to help them make that happen.

That is ALL of our jobs: To identify those things and take action to see that we stay on course. Every day.

Wouldn't it feel GREAT to add a new number each day to your sign "How Many Days I've Really Lived = X"??

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Problem, Challenge, or Opportunity?

Today I heard some people having a heated discussion about whether it was better to refer to a situation as a "problem" or an "opportunity".

What a waste of time.

The REAL issue isn't the terminology - it is the fact that, typically, all they do is talk. That's a common situation that most people/businesses are in today. Here are some practical distinctions I make that I've been told by clients is helpful:

Definition of "Problem" = Anything that is unacceptable to you. The degree of your problem is the degree of unacceptableness. REALLY unacceptable = BIG problem.

Definition of "Challenge" = A problem that you are willing to face/fix.

Both "Problems" and "Challenges" are "Opportunities". The truth is: We have almost unlimited opportunities each and every day. You can choose to have one less soda a day and lose about 15 pounds a year. You can choose to wake up 30 minutes earlier each day and invest that time strategically considering your future. You can choose to take the 5 minutes immediately after reading this blog to call a friend or family member and tell them how much you care about them or to ask forgiveness/forgive them to enhance your relationship.

Every day. Every hour. Every minute is an opportunity.

The question is: "Will you take action"?

Merely talking about definitions of words and other concepts without acting on that discussion to add some kind of value is a complete waste of energy. Calling something a "problem" isn't what creates negativity/defeat. Failing to do anything constructive about the problem is what keeps it a problem - and retains the negative consequences.

Solution? Commit to do more than talk about what needs to improve. Take action to achieve something of substance that means something at the end of the day.

Just a could start with that phone call...

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Monday, August 9, 2010

What To Do When Things Hit The Fan

Interesting how Life can change in an instant, eh?

Family, friends and colleagues members have had major changes occur recently. One has had several challenging health issues with numerous family members. Another has just gotten married for the first time. Still another is struggling to make sense of several professional opportunities.

Whether good news or bad news, massive change can create an overwhelming situation that can cause us to spin our wheels.

What is the key? It's all rolled up into one of my favorite sayings: "Organize or agonize".

Recently, I was working with a client who was struggling with similar issues - not knowing what to do next and being confused by the swirl of activity around them. In times like this, I like to take a step back and remind myself of a few things that keeps me balanced and focused.

KNOW your purpose.
SOW your talents.
GROW your legacy.

Once you've done the hard work to get clear about your purpose in life, it makes it easy to identify what to say "yes" to and what to say "no" to regarding your time/schedule.

Once you're clear about what your unique talents/skills are, you can make better decisions about leveraging your strengths to better establish your niche.

Once you're clear about the difference you ultimately want to make (based on your purpose and your talents), you can target building your legacy in a comprehensive, fully-integrated way - wasting as little effort as possible.

Just a little something to consider when things get crazy - which, in this hectic life, can be more than once a day.

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

And Then Comes...The Judgment

One of my current clients is a new international media company - full of young, fresh-faced employees that want to change the world. Very exciting stuff. I'm loving the high-energy, the fearless attitudes, and the willingness to be creative/innovative. All these characteristics are worth their weight in gold.

Their problem? They've discovered a troubling trend. They'll select an idea, then all start working out different aspects of that idea to being it into production, then - something invariably derails the process. Again and again, someone on the team (different every scenario) does something that causes the rest of the carefully laid dominoes to fall.


They've come to realize that the common denominator is "bad judgment". Their zeal, overdone, becomes a liability.

The key ingredient to good judgment is experience. Judgment requires comparing things and making an educated guess - a guess based on probability - gathered from the experience with the various aspects of the situation.

For example, if I'm in my car trying to pull out into busy highway traffic, I use my past experience to gauge the speed of the oncoming cars, the opening between certain cars on the road, my car's pick-up performance, my reflexes, etc. Then I act.

If my judgment is good, then I merge seamlessly into the flow of traffic. I have successfully "judged" the importance I placed on all the elements in an appropriate way.

If my judgment is bad, I either interrupt the flow (problem) or even get into an accident (bigger problem.)

This is why inexperienced people make bad choices. They are still learning all the changing components of the unique situation and "guessing" the best they can.

Inexperienced doesn't always mean "youth". Some people who haven't been exposed to different aspects of life (through circumstances or choice) don't have the tools to "guess" effectively. And some young people have incredible judgment because they've been building it from an early age.

So, how do you "build good judgment"? The same way you build good character or anything that is worthwhile and lasts:

1. Get curious. Purposefully expose yourself to new experiences. Don't passively wait for it to magically happen by accident.

2. Pay attention. Notice the details of the dynamics of how and why things happen. Notice the natural consequences. There's a reason consequences happen the way that they do.

3. Make the effort. You must build good judgment (bad judgment tends to be the default in Life.) Get engaged.

My client organization is making fantastic strides in optimizing their new experiences. They're not settling for some superficial/temporary "program of the month" - they are building a foundation - one "on purpose" experience at a time. They are becoming seasoned on their own terms...which will allow them to achieve their dream of changing the world.

What are you doing to purposefully achieve your dreams...on your own terms?

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

"Excuse My Dust"

Believe it or not, "Excuse My Dust" is written on the gravestone of humorist Dorothy Parker. Not exactly known for her protocol sensitivities, I must admit, I appreciate her humor - and the ultimate consideration expressed in her "final words".

Parker was a prolific writer known for her caustic wit. She had a reputation for making an impression on everyone she met. She was making things happen. When you are really working at making a difference, some dust is to be expected.

Whether you are working with customers, guests, clients, or partners - consideration is the key (appropriate humor doesn't hurt, either.) Taken literally, being considerate is simply considering others first. Making the effort to see things from their perspective, and think about how the situation/our potential actions could be affecting them, and what their preferred situation/outcome would be - we can begin to work towards providing for that.

Not always easy, but truly that simple.

No matter who you are interacting with, a little consideration goes a long way to making that experience a success. Simply asking: "What are their hopes for this situation?" or "How is my behavior impacting them?" - and doing something about it - can make a world of difference for them.

And for you.

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pixar Magic Can Be YOUR Magic!

You may have heard about Pixar's recent accomplishments: Record-breaking attendance for IMAX; Unprecedented 11th straight #1 box office opening week. Stunning!

The interesting thing is that Pixar is not achieving this by accident. Here are the steps that YOU can follow to get the same amazing results:

Begin with Your Story. What are your foundational Values? Your primary Vision? The deep-down wants of your Customer? With Pixar, EVERY decision is measured against these three things. Until you clearly identify and communicate these issues, you WILL waste time, effort, and money.

Set the Stage. Innovate rather than imitate. Your organization is unique. Don't copy what other world-class companies do. Instead, copy how they THINK - and then apply that process to your unique situation. Continuous improvement by doing what makes the most sense for YOU is the key.

Recruit the Cast. Taking your business to the next level is achieved only via your employees. In addition to the "stars" that are thew role models for your business, consider actively engaging those who are unhappy with your current outcomes. For Toy Story 3, Pixar gathered all the "black sheep" who had been complaining about how things needed to be improved and put them to work to accomplish that task. Give your malcontents a chance to "put up or shut up"!

Now, go out there and do something unprecedented!

Think about it - but more importantly, DO something about!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Measuring Time = Measuring Life

It is a common tradition to take stock of our lives every New Years. Seems natural - the beginning of a new year and all. But assessing our life just once a year also seems way too long between reviews. Not nearly enough feedback in between checks.

So I started doing a mid-year check-in with myself as well (about this time of year.) That's when everything started to change for the better. Started seeing some improvements over the once-a-year reviews. So I started once a quarter. Then once a month. Then once a week.

Now I conduct once a day assessments of where I am and how am I moving forward RE: my big life goals/bucket list.

Don't get me wrong - I'm NOT a number-crunching, "sadistics" kinda guy. Still not. Quite the opposite. Plus, it always weirded me out when people focused so much on measuring things in their life. Many people get so focused on the measuring process, they take their attention away from the real life-living part. What a shame.

But I came to realize that measuring something doesn't make it less "natural" - as long as the reason for measuring it stays the primary focus. The point is that, once I identify a goal (or goals) that are aligned with my values, talents, and passion (my purpose), then the more I stay aligned with that path, the more fulfilled I will be as ME.

It's really all about making more (often) informed choices. When is that ever a bad thing? Plus, seeing changes in the direction of your goal - even small improvements - is encouraging, and motivates me to stay the course/make even more improvements.

Not a bad tactic, actually.

It takes some getting used to, but it can actually make a transformative difference in the amount of LIFE you have in your life.

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Hungry Dog Hunts Best

Hall of Fame golfer Lee Trevino once said "A hungry dog hunts best." Ever since my mother became friends with Lee a few decades ago, I've enjoyed his earthy way of being both fun and, at times, profound. This quote is a great example.

Over the past couple of years, both clients and colleagues have been asking me about how to thrive in these difficult times. I'm happy to help, but I also know challenging times should serve as a powerful reminder about what balance and good business health really is.

Whether in the physical sense or in the business sense, I've found that I actually enjoy being a little bit hungry at all times. Being extremely hungry? Definitely not! But even when everything is going fan-freaking-tastic, I strongly believe being a little hungry is healthy.

Being hungry reminds me of what's important. It keeps me aware and focused. It keeps me lean and agile. Being hungry keeps me needing to be ever more creative with my use of resources. It builds discipline. Finally, being a little hungry makes me appreciate that I'm not extremely hungry.

I encourage you to embrace hunger a little more today. Then stretch it to a week. Then a month. Then make it a lifestyle. I believe you'll be healthier as a result.

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bucket List Progress

I checked off a "Bucket List" item today. "Publish a book." Check. (For those who are interested, the title is "Lead With Your Customer" and launches in 3 weeks in Chicago at the ASTD international conference. Pre-sales are happening on Check it out!)

The act of checking it off the list always seems to go so quickly...especially after all the time and effort that goes into actually DOING the activity. I guess that is true for anything big/important. In the end, it's mostly about the journey.

Here's the thing: This experience has me thinking about how we accomplish our life goals. I wrote up my first bucket list ("Must do") at age 12/13. I added a "Part Two" to it when I was about 18 and then again ("Part Three: Nice To Do") when I was in my early 20's.

I'm happy that I've completed about 80% of my combined lists, but now that I think about it, I'm NOT happy with how I've been slowing down in my list checking progress. It seems I used to accomplish 3-5 "wish list" goals a year. Now I'm lucky to do one a year. I'm now realizing the difference is that I used to finish a challenge, check it off, celebrate, then target the next one I wanted to experience - then start actively planning the next adventure. I've fallen down on that last part. Shame on me.

Lesson learned. No more settling. No more "getting too busy" with the distractions of life to live life (my pet peeve - which I am, ironically, guilty of right now.) Well, no more! I'm back on track! (Notice I didn't say that I was going to get back on track. If we really want to do something, we can always start right now. I've already selected my next challenge!) I'm halfway through planning my next tactical steps to bring it to fruition.

What about you? What have you been neglecting? Isn't it time to re-engage yourself and your dreams? You determine whether you life the life you desire or if you settle for living an average, passionless life. You only get one chance at this (yes, only one.) Take back your life today!

Think about it - but more importantly, do something about!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Using Pain as a Tool...the Good Kind.

Let me begin by stating, for the record, that I'm NOT a masochist. I do NOT enjoy pain. When I am in pain, I generally get cranky. I'm not fun. Things tend to get nasty. Not good.

But, there are different kinds of pain. The most successful people identify what pain really is and how to manage it for our benefit.

Pain is feedback. Pain is our body's way of telling us that we are doing something beyond our ability at the moment. Just a natural little "head's up". We should pay attention.

Sometimes the pain is physical: Like a hand on a hot stove. Good that we're experiencing that sensation of pain - it warns us to move our hand - quickly - before more damage can be done. It can also be physical pain, as in "my muscles are sore from my new workout routine". This is simply saying that we're enduring the pain of building muscle. Again, a good thing in moderation.

There's also mental/emotional pain as well. Recent example for me? Writing/publishing a book (At the rpinter's now - due out in a month!) Painful. But sometimes, learning (like building muscle) requires discomfort in the pursuit of growth. (Boy, have I learned a LOT during this publishing process!) This kind of pain can be caused by everything from guilt, to fear, to mere impatience (me and the publishing process). When we are tested, we can often gain benefits useful for us later in life. I feel like my (painful) lessons during this book publishing process fall into that category. Like eating right, exercising, and being disciplined in finances - not always fun, but almost always "good for you".

I guess the key is understanding when pain is the good kind or the bad kind. When is it too much? At what point does it become "worth it"?

To me, a big part of that answer is tied into why you are doing it. Does it align with your values and purpose? Does it support the greater (than self) good? Is the process making you a better person as a result?

All I know is that when I get over the "soreness" (whether physical or mental/emotional pain), I typically feel like I've gained something of value...even if that is learning never to do THAT again. The trick is to pay attention every time so we don't go too far down a negative path.

That is what set the most successful people apart: They are aware and take action to do something about it. Every day.

Some people say it takes discipline to do that.

I say it BUILDS discipline to do that.

What are YOU building?

Think about it...but more importantly, DO something about it. Today!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

How To Lose Loyalty

Interesting how a few weeks can make such a difference!

Toyota, previously the driving public's darling of the automotive industry, has been reeling ever since the revelation of problems with the accelerators in some of their best-selling models. Toyota went from media darling to media target. How will Toyota fare? What does this situation show us about loyalty - and how to earn it/keep it?

Well to begin with, unless Toyota makes some MORE blunders (the company's decision to delay the recall and then admitting it was for financial gain was a huge misstep), I expect they will stop the bleeding, turn things around, and be on top once again very soon.

Here's the deal: Earning loyalty in business is the same as earning it in our personal relationships. Both start with getting your attention, then getting to know each other. Finding similarities in values, preferences, and interests. Occasionally, one makes a mistake - but if there's been sufficient deposits in the "emotional bank account", AND open/honest regret AND sufficient behavior change, the relationship can be repaired. For this to happen there MUST be value for BOTH sides. Common ground. It needs to be worth the effort.

Yes, Toyota screwed up. Safety is a non-negotiable when it comes to driving. But they've built up a lot of deep relationships with many, many years of consistent safety, excellence and service. If they make the proper recovery, their reputation and future opportunities will be as impressive (or nearly so) as it was before.

The lessons are:
1. Always be wooing your significant other (in this case, your customers are the significant ones)
2. If you really care, you'll do what's in their best interest
3. If you screw up, and you really care, you'll make an obvious effort to fix the problem AND fix the relationship...based on what the offended party deems appropriate

Loyalty is rarely earned by "faking it" in front of the customer. We all know when we're being conned. If the relationship is fake, then these kinds of mistakes will ultimately be fatal - and any loyalty gained will be lost. If the relationship legitimately has value, it's not by accident. It's because you've taken action on the things that matter to the customer.

Toyota can rediscover that truth and get past soon as they SHOW it (not just talk about it) and the media finds another whipping boy - which should be any day now.

What are YOU doing to earn loyalty? What are you doing to KEEP it?

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

When In The Midst Of The Storm

Recently, it seems like nearly every client, colleague, and friend has been overwhelmed by unexpected circumstances. Sometimes the challenge has been out of left field, sometimes the challenge has been more intense or longer-lasting than expected...but either way, they are struggling to manage.

Sometimes, Life has a way of ganging up on you, eh?

This past month has been a challenge for me as well. A "perfect storm" of previous commitments, professional challenges, and personal set-backs. Sometimes it can knock the wind out of you - leave you reeling for a moment. A setback like this can be painful, but it can be an attention-getter when you desperately need one.

When things in our environment are so dynamic, it is dangerous to be inflexible in anything except your values and The Truth. The saying that "good always triumphs over evil" is only true in the longest term. Short term, the ugly truth is that evil sometimes wins...temporarily. The key is getting through the temporary times.

Here is what I've found to guide me (and other clients/colleagues/friends) through these temporary trials: The "A List"...

1. Accept the pain/circumstances: Denial only prolongs the process. It IS happening - and time (nor any connected circumstance) isn't stopping. Grow up and face it with courage NOW or a messy "domino effect" will make it worse. (Yes, it ALWAYS makes it worse...)

2. Assess the root cause(s): Objectively review your circumstances and YOURSELF to get at the root cause of the problem. Look for trends/patterns. What is REALLY causing the pain right now? Could it be the natural consequences of YOUR actions? (or LACK of action?)

3. Adapt to the new situation/challenge: What was is no longer what is. Let go of the past and embrace a new now to establish today's starting place to make progress towards your goals. No, your goals don't have to change, necessarily (if they are still worthy), just your approach to achieve them. Maybe there's ANOTHER right answer that will get you there?

4. Action your way through towards your goals: Thinking/talking about your intentions get you NOWHERE. As overwhelming as it may seem, you can take a step NOW...even a baby step is progress. Baby steps, multiplied by consistent effort often turns to momentum and larger steps.

If you've experienced a painful set-back, you have my condolences. Take a moment to grieve (Accept) and then commit to the rest of the process. There IS hope...even in the midst of the pain and confusion. Focus on your goals and the process and soon you will be out of the maelstrom.

Take a deep breath, and begin. Now.

Think about it, but more importantly do something about!

Monday, January 11, 2010

No Longer Waiting For A Good Opportunity

Well, it's FINALLY 2010. A clean slate. A fresh start. A new beginning.

Then why are so many people...just waiting?

I was talking with a client about his plans for growth in 2010. After he described a long list of ways they were planning to position themselves and gain market share, I asked him what he and his teams were currently doing to accomplish those goals. He stated that they were watching and waiting for more evidence of a turnaround before they took any action.

I believe the opportunity is already starting to slip away.

One of the traits of world-class success stories is they LEAD the market. They initiate trends. They take action and gain while "wanna be's" wait for "proof" or for some kind of assurance that their plan will gain BIG results with minimum risk.

Funny thing about business (and just about any other aspect of life for that matter)...low risk almost ALWAYS results in low rewards.

Intent means nothing until it is acted upon.

Once there is a good understanding of the customer, your team/resources/strategies, and the competition, every moment of "waiting" squanders your potential. Your competitive edge diminishes. You leave the window of opportunity open for your competition.

Sounds like a foolish way to begin a new decade.

Do New: Stop waiting for opportunity and MAKE opportunity instead!

Think about it, but more importantly - do something about!