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Prove you right

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Do you believe you have what it takes? Why or why not?

Is that something you were born with? Is it something you were told?

Which begs the question, is it something you can teach?

Howard Schultz seems to think so, and it’s a big reason why Starbucks has grown from a 6-shop franchise to a 17,000-store giant.

I really, genuinley belive that if you tell people that they have what it takes to succeed, they’ll prove you right.

So, let them prove you right!

How often are we tempted to criticize and nitpick weaknesses when there is so much to complement and be proud of? This isn’t to say to shy away from coaching, it’s merely looking at personal and professional development from a higher view.

Take a step back and reflect on all of the variables at play. Chances are, it’s impressive. If there is room for improvement, first let them know you believe in them. Let them sense your confidence. Allow them to see it in your eyes that you know they have what it takes to succeed.

Let them prove you right.

Your brand

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How do you answer the following question: “What’s your brand?”

Do you immediately talk about what you do? What’s on your website? Your background? If so, you’re only providing context around what you want other’s to think and say about you.

Or, do you dig deeper and reflect on your values and principles? Do you ask yourself the tough questions to dive into whether or not you are representing your brand?

Because here’s the thing, you might think your brand is one thing, but if others think it’s something else, then you’re missing the mark on establishing your brand. At which point, too many go back to the aesthetics (the website, logo, service, backstory) instead of focusing on what matters.

Here’s how to tell what your brand is: can other people tell what your values are without you having to tell them? That’s your brand. Don’t like what they have to say? Change the narrative and act accordingly.

For a brand isn’t what you say it it, it’s what they say it is.

Against? Or for?

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How easy is it to say: this food is bland, that movie has awful acting, this book has no plot? We, as a society, love being ‘against’ things. It is, after all, how revolutions are started, unfairness is brought to attention, and conversations start.

But if it’s change you’re going for, lasting change, the kind that transforms opinions, brings people together, and produces important results…be for things.

What are you against? Okay, that was easy. Now, what are you for?

It’s easy to criticize, isn’t it? It’s much harder to have an opinion, formulate an argument (if you will), and back something with conviction.

So be for things, not just against stuff.

The first bird? Or the second mouse?

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Why do birds fly together? How do they know who leads and who follows? Does it matter?

Who has the harder job, the person who uses a compass to forge a new path? Or the person who uses a map to follow one?

It’s not that one is more challenging that the other. Sure, leading can be more demanding, but it doesn’t mean that it’s more important. Following requires a different skillset and is very much in demand.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, seconds don’t always have to be sloppy. There are times to lead and times to follow. And the world needs people who can follow—and follow well. Without followers, trends don’t catch on, movements remain stagnant, and innovation comes to a halt.

The point is, are you a leader? Or are you a follower? You can be both! How can you be a better leader? And how can you follow more effectively?

Remember, just like the first bird gets the worm, the second mouse gets the cheese :)

The middle ground

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You hear world-class athletes say this all the time: not too high, not too low. It’s about keeping a level head. Not getting too excited when things go your way and not getting too down when things don’t.

The thing is, uncontrolled ambition is easy. Anyone can keep their foot on the gas pedal. Complacency is easy, too. The trick is to find the right balance between the two. It’s about applying the right amount of pressure at the right time during the right circumstances.

The “Golden Mean” as Aristotle put it. It’s what makes excellence so difficult. He wrote: “In each case, it is hard work to find the intermediate; for instance, not everyone, but only one who knows, finds the midpoint in a circle.”

Find your middle ground. Check yourself when you feel like you’re getting reckless, realize when you are shying away from responsibility. What lies in the middle is courage.

Find your middle ground. Know when to speak up, sense when to keep your mouth shut. What lies in the middle is respect.

Find your middle ground. Look for opportunities in obstacles, beware of pitfalls in possibilities. What lies in the middle is mastery.

Liked? Or respected?

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When it comes to seeing real change, too often, we let the need to be liked get in the way.

Our ego wants us to be liked. It begs us to seek validation, to put things off, to double down on bad decisions, to avoid asking the questions we don’t want to hear the answers to.

Being respected is the long game. It takes time. It’s something you earn as opposed to something that’s given.

Failure is going to happen. You’re going to do things that don’t work, be places that aren’t a good fit, make decisions that have poor repercussions, have unfortunate circumstances befall you. It might be your fault, it might not be, but at this point, it doesn’t matter. It’s what you do now that matters.

Will your next decision be based on what others will think of it? Or will you dig deep, reflect, and take ownership?

What pushes you?

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Or, maybe the better question to ask is “what pulls you?”

There’s a quote I came across that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about over the past few days. It’s by Viktor Frankl, who happens to know a thing or two about motivations and aspirations:

“Man is pushed by drives. But he is pulled by values.” 

When a situation presents itself, you are free to either accept or reject a value that is being offered.

Are you being ruled? Or are you ruling?

Being acted upon? Or acting.

Without the right values, success is brief. Happiness is fleeting. Progression is stifled.

Here’s the thing, the most successful people I’ve ever heard of or met, aren’t very well-known people. And that’s how they like it! Sure, there are plenty that get recognized, but the greats will never credit their achievements to their own devises. The need to be praised and heard may drive some people to climb the ladder, but not these people. They are pulled by something more important, meaningful, and bigger than themselves.

If man is only being pushed by his desires, then he is a slave to circumstance. There also needs to be a pull—in the right direction—something else that provides context and perspective. Only then can man be truly free.

Make it about the work you do and why you do it. Choose principles over accolades. Check your drives and evaluate your values.

Cookies and data

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Companies, entrepreneurs, and employees are spending a lot of time, money, and energy on trying to figure out what makes them different. It’s an honorable pursuit. What makes anyone or anything stand out more than the next? Most marketers will answer that question by referring (in one way or another) to the 4 ‘P’s’: Price. Product. Placement. Promotion. But what about the 1 ‘R?’: Relationships.

In a world that is becoming more and more detached, virtual, and hands-off, what if the thing that makes you the best is merely your ability to build authentic relationships? Simple concept, not easy to do.

That’s what makes where I work so successful, is its focus on developing genuine relationships. Again, not an easy thing to do in a competitive landscape like recruiting. But it’s something that is ingrained in every employee.

No matter what your job is, you’re going to deal with difficult people. People won’t respond, they’ll be impatient, demanding, and have unrealistic expectations. The thing that will make your relationship with them successful won’t come down to how good your product is, how much it costs, or how many times you can expose them to what you’re selling, it will largely depend on how well you have been able to win their attention and earn their trust.

This, of course, begs the question: “how does one win someone’s attention and earn someone’s trust?” Answer: cookies and data!

Now, this may be an oversimplification of a larger lesson, but, at the very least, it’s a memorable one. Here’s what I mean when I say that “cookies and data” are the keys to building genuine relationships:

1) Clients have lives, too. They have families, friends, bosses, responsibilities, fears, doubts, and insecurities. Go into every interaction with this in mind and you’ll already be well on your way to understanding them.
2) Most people really like themselves. So let them talk about themselves. What are they passionate about? What do they talk about?
3) This is where the cookies come in. Show them that you were listening. Treat them to something. Add in a ‘nice touch’ that makes you memorable.
4) Then bring the data. Show them how you are adding value. Provide evidence and insight into how you have been able to help and why it matters.

Building lasting relationships that pay off time and time again doesn’t have to be difficult. It takes time and it requires caring. But most importantly, it takes putting aside your own agenda for the sake of building something genuine.

Which comes first?

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The decision to commit? Or figuring out what you’re good it?

So many of us want to prove to ourselves (and others) that we can be good at something before we commit.

But what if we’ve got it backwards? What if we are spending too much time teaching tactics and not enough time teaching commitment? Here’s the thing, most of the time, for most people, if we want to learn something, we can learn it. It takes a decision, then a commitment. Because when we commit to something, we are then more likely to keep up the effort and push through the failures and frustrations that inevitably come.

It’s a defense mechanism. A defense against failure. We don’t want to fail so we sit back and gossip until something sticks. And when it does, then we commit.

And, as a society, we feed that reluctancy to commitment because we prefer disapproval to dedication.

Teaching techniques is important. But if you want to be a great teacher, leader, or mentor—teach commitment.

Winning routines

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The organizations that really get it—the ones that always win—have been able to develop a workforce of autonomous individuals who are bought into the organization’s routines.

For, successful individuals have habits, and successful organizations have routines.

Chopping down the last tree

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Did the folks on the once-great Easter Island know what they were doing to their lush, beautiful island when they started taking down all the trees? Or were they too concerned with short-term results? At which point did they realize what they had done? What were they thinking as they chopped down the last tree?

Our society loves short-term successes. We are impressed with those who 'burst onto the scene' or 'become great overnight.' So we fall for it. We focus on how quickly we can get there rather than on how well we are doing it. But in doing so, are we (metaphorically, of course) chopping down our own forest?

Any way you slice it, it's going to take effort. Whether it's doing it fast or doing it right, the amount of energy spent will be the same. In fact, I think most would agree (especially those who have gone through the painful experience of chopping down their last tree) that it will take less time and less effort to do things the difficult way—the 'long' way—than it will to cut corners, take shortcuts, 'chop down trees at an unsustainable rate,' all in the name of looking good today, instead of building for tomorrow. 

Fighting the cycle

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In the words of the famous Vince Lombardi:

You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all of the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

Ever wonder why that is? Why losing is a 'curse?' Why is it, when you tell a 'B' student to try harder, work smarter and faster, they, more often, become C students rather than A students? The same goes in the workplace. Getting better rather than getting worse is something you can learn. In other words, responding to failure is a skill that can be taught. But, too often the coaching is: 'double down, stay longer, work harder, or else.' The stakes get higher and things only get tougher. And, in response, people spend more and more of their energy fighting the cycle (playing to not lose) rather than building momentum and gaining confidence to win when it counts. 

Turns out, the best way to fight the cycle of losing is to change your mindset on what that cycle is. Fear is going to ask a lot of you. When it does, that's not your cue to pull back but push forward. Meaning, embrace it! Do the opposite of what it asks. Otherwise, you'll always be fighting against the inevitable. 

It's like if someone tells you over and over to stop being angry, what is your typical response to that? You get angrier! The same goes for winning and losing: 'don't lose, don't miss quota, don't underachieve, don't make a mistake, don't fail.' what happens? You end up doing exactly what you didn't want to. 

The solution is simple (not easy); embrace the cycle, the failure, and keep playing loose. Play to win and only focus your attention on winning. You will fail. But learn to love failure because, without it, you won't ever know how sweet success really tastes. Pretty soon, you'll stop thinking about what it would be like to lose, those thoughts won't even cross your mind. You'll live in a world where things always work out. Afterall, they do! 

A case for micromanagement

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I like micromanagement. I think it gets a bad rap. To me, it shows my boss cares. Because, here's the thing, when it comes down to it, everyone micromanages to a certain extent. 

Here it goes: what does it even mean to 'micromanage?' Getting involved in too many projects? Not delegating things because you think you can do it better? Worrying too much about the tiny details instead of seeing the big picture? Wanting every decision and every action ran by you first? Yes, I would agree that this is what micromanagement looks like. But I would also argue that even the managers you love, the ones who let you be autonomous, the bosses who aren't jerks about things, still micromanage—they just do it more tastefully. 

It's the inadequate managers out there—who like hearing the sound of their own voices and just like to say stuff for the sake of sounding right—who give micromanagement a bad name. Because when they micromanage, it's noticeable. It becomes the scapegoat. 

"But my manager doesn't micromanage." Of course, it doesn't seem like it. That's what good leaders do. They know how to not only make you be successful but also feel successful. They don't take credit for your successes even though they deserve way more than they receive! Make no mistake about it, they are still tracking your progress. They, no doubt, know your numbers, understand your goals, are involved in the day-to-day activities of your work, take over when there is something you don't know how to do yet, and help you with the major decisions that need to be made. In other words, they are caring...and managing...at the micro level.

Every manager I've had has micromanaged me. Some, I've appreciated it, and others, I've thought it was annoying and condescending—but the difference had nothing to do with how much or how little they were involved in my work—it all had to do with how they approached it (which usually stemmed from their motivations). 

Don't confuse engagement for micromanagement. Maybe you do know everything. Maybe your way of doing things is better. Maybe if people would leave you alone you could make it happen. And, maybe, there's a job out there for you...maybe.

Never buy groceries when you're hungry

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Don't buy bottled water at Disneyland (or at any other time). 

Don't set your alarm clock the night before, when you're tired.

Put money into your savings account first, then spend what you have left. 

Don't set goals after a disappointing day. Set them when you're on fire. When you're crushing your number. When you're feeling good about things. Then review your goals when something falls through. 

When it comes to planning and setting goals, time and context matter. It takes self-control and follow-through to do what you committed to doing. But if you allow a poor circumstance or an unfortunate situation to dictate your future goals and plans, then you'll consistently set a bar that is too low and follow a plan that you're not really serious about. 

 

The difference of a day

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Sometimes, that's all it takes.

Having a bad attitude about things? Give it a day. 

Not seeing the kind of success you'd like to see? Recalibrate. Set some goals. See how you feel about it tomorrow. 

Unsure on a particular decision you have to make? Do some writing. Call a mentor. Read or listen to something that moves you. You'll know what to do tomorrow. 

What a difference a day makes. 

Giving yourself the benefit of the doubt

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Think about it. What makes one qualified? 

- Time?
- Money?
- Effort?
- Willingness to fail?

It's all of these, but it's also more than that. If you can get people to talk about your idea, think differently about something, change a habit, try something new, buy something, do something outside of their comfort zone, chances are you're more qualified than you think. 

It's ironic, it's usually the people who think that they are the least qualified who are probably the most qualified out there. The opposite also seems to be true. Being humble makes you qualified. 

Don't think that just because you are learning about something that doesn't make you qualified. Some of the best teachers are those who are in the beginning stages of their learning and development. They are passionate about what they do and that passion is contagious. 

The opposite also seems to be true. Sometimes masters are awful teachers. Their arrogance can be blinding. What worked for them might not work for you. 

So stop thinking you aren't qualified. If you want to teach something, teach it; write a book about something, write it; coach someone, coach them. As long as you are all in and dedicated to becoming an expert (and a master), and you put in the work, you are qualified. 

What it takes

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In any hero's journey, the hero—be it you, me, Luke Skywalker, Moana, Dorothy, or Rocky—first receives a call. A call to be someone better or do something bigger. Although the journey will surely include more challenges along the way, the most difficult obstacle any hero or heroine will face is making the decision to answer the call. 

Deciding that you have what it takes. 

Because after that, nothing remains the same. You leave the world you have grown accustomed to and enter a new reality. One in which you have eliminated distractions.

But you can only embark on your hero's journey one you have stopped welcoming the bright shiny objects into your life. The things that distract you from doing work that matters.

Priorities: the hardest decision is the first one. Choosing the useful things over the things that demand more attention than necessary. 

 

The caring culture

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People may or may not hear what you say, but they always remember what you do. 

You're not the exception, you're the reason. If you care, others will follow. 

Leaders may eat last, but they are the first to apply the rules to themselves. They are the first to show transparency. They are the first to be accountable. They are the first to sacrifice. 

How valuable are you?

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When someone hires you to do a job, are you getting paid more or less than the value you provide?

It ultimately comes down to a cost-benefit analysis. Is your value to your organization equal or greater than your cost, and does the organization believe your value will increase or decrease over time?

What is the organization’s return on investing in you? What about the people that hire you?

For sales representatives, the first part of calculating how much value they bring is to evaluate booking numbers. Are they meeting or exceeding quota? In many organizations, this is the only yardstick. But there may be other things to consider: skill-set for other roles, leadership capabilities, and work ethic (to name a few).

But when organizations evaluate other roles like software engineers, graphic designers, marketing managers, HR specialists, and customer support representatives, calculating their value becomes a little trickier.

Here are some key points to consider when beginning to figure out how much value you actually bring to the table:

  1. Have a clear understanding of what you company’s goals are, as well as what your managers consider important.
  2. Be an expert on what job you are hired to do.
  3. Are your efforts focused on the right thing? If your organization is looking for more bottom-up innovation, ideas and solutions, but you spend your time working on ways to increase company morale, you might be missing the mark.
  4. Think in terms of metrics. How much revenue are you bringing in? How much money did you save the company by implementing some lean approaches? Did your campaign produce better results than expected?
  5. Speak up. Clearly communicating your value is more than half the battle. Yes, this means you’ll have to show some salesmanship. “To sell is human” - Daniel Pink. The fact is, the higher-ups or whomever hired you won’t know unless you tell them. Not to be a brown-noser, but in appropriate settings, it’s important to make a case for why your efforts mattered. You’ll then need to tie back your efforts into how they are in sync with the organization’s values. You are more than the sum of your job description. And your work can only speak for itself if people notice.

Bill Gates once said that “a great writer of software code is worth 10,000 times the price of an average software writer.” Constantly and continually improving your skills will certainly help separate you from the average. But you’ll also need to bear in mind what the market says. It’s important to know what people in your field, with your experience, and skill level are being paid.

When all is said and done, calculating your value begins with you. Take an in-depth look at your skills. Evaluate your abilities. Then improve them. Make a list of reasons why someone should hire you. What are your strengths and weaknesses? How are your endeavors bringing in more revenue or saving the organization money? What are the key objectives for the company? Does the work you do line up?

Now tell them. Then continue to show them.