Five Things Every Leader Should Do

Number on the wooden plate

I was recently asked what I saw as major focus areas for leaders. There are many things a leader needs to balance, but here are a few key things that they should always keep front of mind.

Create Focus: A leader should strive to paint an inspiring vision. Most people don’t want to run from something, but rather they seek to run to something. As individuals, we want to be a part of something greater than ourselves. A leader should paint this inspiring vision, and then articulate the priorities to help people know how to make progress against that vision.

Fall in Love with the Problem, Not the Solution: It’s human nature to love our own ideas. But sometimes that means that we hang on to them too long. Along the leadership or innovation journey, you must ask: Are we making sufficient progress to believe that our original hypothesis is correct, or do we need to make a change? If you never lose sight of the problem, how you attack the solution can remain more flexible, iterative and ultimately, be more likely to succeed.

Lead With Questions Not Answers: The best leaders don’t need to have all of the answers. They surround themselves with great people, and ask the right questions. It’s not what you know. It’s the questions you ask that help you become a more effective and inspiring leader.

Build Capability Through Principles & Frameworks: Leaders must unpack “why” a decision has been made, and not just the “what” the ultimate decision is. This practice makes explicit the principles or criteria that you applied to reaching a conclusion. These principles can then provide teams with a compass to navigate uncertainty and make their own decisions when you are not available or able to assist, moving beyond your individual ability, and building organizational capability.

Cast a Tall Shadow, Not a Dark Shadow: All leaders cast a shadow. The question is whether yours is blocking the sun, or inspiring others with its silhouette to strive for more. As a leader, we must all walk the talk. Leaders need to role model the behavior they want their organizations to emulate. The two greatest indicators of what we view as important are (1) how we spend our time and (2) the questions we ask. Organizations watch these cues to determine what leaders “really view as important”. So be clear on your say/do ratio, and ensure the shadow you are creating is the one you aspire to project. – Brad Smith, President and CEO of Intuit

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3 Things You Should Do While You Still Have a Job

Don’t be fooled by the recent small improvement in employment numbers. If you are in a company, division, industry, or type of job that is at risk for reduction, get moving NOW to be prepared if you are impacted. Current employees should get a “Plan B” ready now.

jobseeker

After coaching hundreds of people during my 30 year sales and marketing career and now as a professional coach, I have heard it all. Here are the top three excuses why they are not preparing for their next career move:

“It won’t happen to me; I’ve been here a long time.”

“I have no idea what I would do next.”

“Our business/company is doing just fine.”

Here are the top 3 things you should do right NOW, while you’re still employed:

1. AIM: Write out your “next job” goal with great precision, including target functions, industries, and companies. Avoid squishy goals such as “leverage my background in blah, blah, blah” or “I’m flexible so something in the retail space.” If you don’t have a list of 10 target companies, subscribe to your city’s local Business Journal and invest in their Book of Lists, as well. They have a jobs board, as well.

Why do I mention jobs boards when you aren’t even looking? Because they are the best resource to do your homework. Take your next-career-move goal statement and go and window shop on the jobs boards. Monster.com, Indeed.com , and many others are ideal for just checking out what is out there that meets your goal profile. If it doesn’t exist, then you’ve set a target on a unicorn. Change your goal so you are stating a target that exists as a real job.

2. UPDATE: Re-boot your résumé. Don’t just add your current position; give it a face-lift with keywords, power verbs, relevant skills, and metrics.

But, remember: résumés don’t get you jobs. It’s how you present yourself on top of the résumé, so prepare a draft cover letter and think about how you would position yourself to an executive of that company if you were looking.

3. NETWORK: Combine social media with face-to-face connections. Start attending industry or association events, alumni events, and any other relevant events you can identify. Use your local Business Journal to find the best events, job leads, fast-moving companies and much more.

It is more urgent now than ever before that you be ready today for something that could happen to you tomorrow. The job market is already highly competitive and job searches are taking much longer than in the past (an estimated one month for every $10K in annual pay).

We have car insurance, home insurance, health insurance, but no “Job Insurance”… build it now. There are things you should and could be doing to prepare for your next career move.

Don’t worry; you’re not sneaking behind anyone’s back. The activities you should be involved in are everyday business behavior and don’t have to be “hidden” from the public or your employer. For example, using LinkedIn. Many companies see the value of great LinkedIn profiles for their employees; they’re even teaching how to build one! However, you can still make huge progress by learning how to conduct a confidential career-building set of activities.

Don’t be caught without a “Plan B” for your career. It’s nobody’s responsibility but yours. – Dana Manciagli

25 Habits of Happy and Successful People

mother daughter

When I was 5 years old my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told them ‘happy’.

 They told me I didn’t understand the assignment.

 I told them they didn’t understand life.

 

Here is a list of 25 habits of happy and successful people that I compiled that should give you a glimpse into how to live the life of your dreams.

Happy and Success people…

  1. They forget who they were and focus on who they want to be. If you don’t let go of your past then you won’t find your future.
  2. They are sure of themselves and stick to their guns. Uncertainty is the key component of failure.
  3. They are willing to admit when they are wrong. If you can’t accept that you’re wrong then there’s no room to learn.
  4. They surround themselves with those who are worthy. Your friends make you who you are.
  5. They allow unwarranted and hateful criticism to roll off their shoulders. You will always have haters — learn to ignore those that are just trolling.
  6. They accept constructive criticism. You aren’t always right; others may have a clearer perspective than yourself.
  7. They focus and act on what they believe is right and don’t act simply to please. If you’re constantly pleasing others then you won’t have time to please yourself.
  8. They see challenges as an opportunity to learn and to grow as individuals. If you’re never challenged then you’re never going to see the world from a different perspective.
  9. They are open-minded. There’s always another way to do it — a way that may very well be better.
  10. They are quick to adapt. If evolution has taught us anything, it’s this: those who adapt the fastest and most efficiently are those who survive.
  11. They do the right thing because it’s the right thing. Having moral standards and following them alleviates the chances of feeling guilt.
  12. They don’t complain. If the situation can’t be changed and you can’t avoid doing what you have to do, then there’s no reason to complain; it only weighs on your nerves.
  13. If they start something, they finish it. If you’re not going to finish what you started, then why bother starting in the first place?
  14. They exercise regularly. You are an animal and animals are made to move and to push their limits.
  15. They read regularly. It’s the quickest way to learn how the world works.
  16. They keep a well-balanced, nutritious diet. What you eat affects your body on a chemical level.
  17. They take risks. Fear is acceptable as long as you overcome it.
  18. They have no problem with saying “no.” Often at times, it’s the things and opportunities that you turn down that allow for success to manifest.
  19. They meditate and learn to control their breathing. Breathing is the link between our conscious and subconscious mind.
  20. They focus on the moment. Life can only be lived in the moment.
  21. They question convention. The way things are done isn’t always the best way to do things.
  22. They care for and want to give back to human kind. We are all related and all connected.
  23. They learn from others, their heroes and mentors. Having guidelines makes life easier.
  24. They learn from the mistakes of others before they make the mistakes themselves. History does not need to repeat itself.
  25. They respect others and expect respect in return. We are all equal and should all be treated kindly and respectfully.

Most importantly, they are happy. And, at the end of the day that’s what life is all about. Time. Energy. Moments. Live each breath counting those blessings.

Gurbaksh Chahal

The Difference Between Successful and Very Successful People

Successful Baby

I recently met with a capable and driven executive and asked him, “How are you?” He gave me a rapid-fire answer of all of the things he was doing: travelling, business updates, career changes and his children’s innumerable activities. It sounded like an intense but satisfying life.

Then I asked him again, “How are you really?” And the moment I did, he became emotional and the reality of his life just flooded out of him: his stress, his frustration of trying to juggle it all, his sense that he had no time to really think, or play with his children or enjoy any of it. The (cute) summary is this: his schedule was always filled but his life wasn’t fulfilled. What is less cute is the idea that he, and many of us, have been sold a bill of goods.

We’ve been sold on a heroic ideal of the uber-man and super-women who kill themselves saying yes to everyone, sleeping four hours a night and straining to fit everything in. How often have you heard people say, “I am so busy right now!” But it almost seemed like a back-door brag.

But it’s a bogus badge of honor. It suffocates our ability to think and create. It holds otherwise hard working, capable people back from our highest contribution. Below are a few of the myths of success that hold us back from becoming very successful.

Myth 1: Successful people say, “If I can fit it in, I should fit it in.”

Truth: Very successful people are absurdly selective.

As Warren Buffet is credited with having said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.”

As I wrote in a piece for Harvard Business Review, this means, “Not just haphazardly saying no, but purposefully, deliberately, and strategically eliminating the nonessentials. Not just once a year as part of a planning meeting, but constantly reducing, focusing and simplifying. Not just getting rid of the obvious time wasters, but being willing to cut out really terrific opportunities as well. Few appear to have the courage to live this principle, which may be why it differentiates successful people and organizations from the very successful ones.”

Myth 2: Successful people sleep four hours a night.

Truth: Very successful people rest well so they can be at peak performance.

In K. Anders Ericsson’s famous study of violinists, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell as the “10,000 hour rule,” Anders found that the best violinists spent more time practicing than the merely good students. What is less well known is that the second most important factor differentiating the best violinists from the good ones was actually sleep. The best violinists averaged 8.6 hours of sleep in every 24 hour period.

Myth 3: Successful people think play is a waste of time.

Truth: Very successful people see play as essential for creativity.

Just think of Sir Ken Robinson, who has made the study of creativity in school’s his life’s work. He has observed that instead of fueling creativity through play, schools actually kill it: “We have sold ourselves into a fast-food model of education, and it’s impoverishing our spirit and our energies as much as fast food is depleting our physical bodies. Imagination is the source of every form of human achievement.”

Myth 4: Successful people are the first ones to jump in with an answer.

Truth: Very successful people are powerful listeners.

As the saying goes, the people who talk the most don’t always have the most to say. Powerful listeners get to the real story. They find the signal in the sound. They listen to what is not being said.

Myth 5: Successful people focus on what the competition is doing.

Truth: Very successful people focus on what they can do better.

The “winningest coach in America” is Larry Gelwix, the former Head of the Highland High School rugby team. His team won 418 games with only 10 losses in over 36 years. One of the key questions he challenged his players to ask was “What’s important now?” He didn’t want his players getting distracted with what the other team was doing. He wanted them to play their own game.

Last week I took a tour of the Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, Massachusetts. One of the quotes there grabbed my attention. John F. Kennedy said, “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.”

The myth here is celebrated in modern culture: it’s someone who is capable, driven and wants to win and be popular. They have been rewarded for their willingness to take it all on, fit it all in and just make it happen. They believe doing more is better than doing less. I call this type of person a Nonessentialist.

Still, there is a new hero in our story. She asks, “What is essential?” and is willing to eliminate everything else. He says no to the less important activities so they can give themselves fully to the few things that really matter. It is a path that takes courage. It may require making the tradeoff between short-term popularity and long-term respect. It leads to a greater sense of control and even joy. But as an added benefit it also seems to be the thing that distinguishes the successful from the very successful.

What’s Keeping CEOs Up at Night? Six Facts That Will Surprise You

insomnia

Many CEOs lead public lives and relish the spotlight. But behind the scenes, CEOs experience frustration and anxiety like the rest of us, and aren’t always totally confident in their teams’ ability to deliver on their promises.

Do you ever wonder what keeps CEOs awake at night? So did we here at Kapta. So we set out to interview over 300 chief executives to find out what was on their mind.

Besides the standard concerns about sales numbers, profitability and market position, here are some surprising facts about the major frustrations of CEOs.

Top Concerns of CEOs:

Surprises

38% of CEOs interviewed have been blind-sided by a negative surprise in the last 90 days. You would think that CEOs have total visibility into what’s going on in their company – but think again. CEOs want to know all the important things that are going on in their company so really dislike secrets and surprises (both good and bad).

Not enough data

71% of the CEOs we spoke with feel frustrated about lack of meaningful data in their organization. With all the business intelligence dashboards and analytics software on the market, you would imagine that CEOs have all the data they need at their fingertips. It turns out they don’t – and that’s a major point of frustration.

Performance of the top team

45% of the CEOs were not satisfied with their executive team’s performance. They also weren’t sure that every member of the executive team was fully on-board with the company’s strategic plan. Almost every CEO says “We only hire A players” – but do they really believe it?

Moving too slow

82% of CEOs feel like their team isn’t acting with enough urgency and this was affecting the company’s ability to get things done. Not being nimble and quick can sink a company. The CEOs we talked to feel like they are always hustling, so why can’t the others keep up?

Lack of Control

64% of CEOs said they don’t have full control over their company’s direction. CEOs want to be in control but know that organizations are complex entities with lots of moving parts. Most CEOs don’t want a strict “command and control” organization but they do want to feel like they are steering the ship.

Employees don’t get it

Only 22% of CEOs have confidence that their employees “get it.” CEOs often fear that employees are working on unproductive or misdirected activities that are unrelated to the company’s strategy. CEOs know that to achieve long-term success the whole company has to be aligned behind their strategy – but today there’s a major gap here.

So what to do?

Of course the easy retort here is to blame the CEOs themselves. I personally believe this might be too simplistic a standpoint. For sure CEOs should ask exactly how they are responsible and look for strong solutions, but maybe the issue is deeper. Could the real root of the problem be the archaic Management practices, hierarchies and structures that still govern many of our businesses today? Is it time to look toward new models of business management? Certainly there is no easy fix. What do you think?

Four Reasons to Quit Your Job

quit job

What criteria can you use to determine if you have been with the same company too long?

A friend of ours, an investment manager at a highly regarded company in the Midwest, who drove to work one morning, parked his car in the usual spot, and then found he simply could not bring himself to get out of the car. “I guess I stayed on the farm one day too long,” he joked later. When we asked him what went wrong, he answered, “It wasn’t one thing. It was everything.” No wonder he drove home and called in his resignation.

Obviously, most people don’t decide they’ve overstayed at their companies in such a dramatic fashion. Usually, angst about work creeps in, and then builds until it consumes you. And that can happen early or late in a career. Gone are the days when, after graduation, you took the best available job and stayed for as many years as you could possibly stand, frustration be damned. These days, it is not unusual to hear of perfectly legitimate careers built on multiple job stints.

So, to your question, how can you tell when it’s time to move on? We wouldn’t set out specific criteria as much as offer four questions to help sort out an answer.

The first is so simple it almost goes without saying, but the fact that a lot of people don’t confront it, including our friend who ended up stuck in his car—a Harvard MBA, by the way—suggests we should go ahead and put it out there: Do you want to go to work every morning?

This is not a matter to be over-brained. Does the prospect of going in each day excite you or fill you with dread? Does the work feel interesting and meaningful or are you just going through motions to pull a paycheck? Are you still learning and growing?

We know of a woman who worked in consulting for seven years. She loved her firm and had originally planned a career with it, but suddenly started noticing that she wished every weekend was five days long. “Basically, I felt like we were putting together massive books in order to make recommendations to people who knew more than we did,” she said. “Every day at the office, I felt a little bit more of a hypocrite.” She now happily works on the “front lines,” to use her phrase, in the marketing department of a retail company.

Second, do you enjoy spending time with your coworkers or do they generally bug the living daylights out of you? We’re not saying you should only stay at your company if you want to barbecue with your team every weekend, but if you don’t sincerely enjoy and respect the people you spend 10 hours a day with, you can be sure you will eventually decide to leave your organization. Why not make the break sooner rather than later and start cultivating relationships at a company where you might actually plant roots?

Third, does your company help you fulfill your personal mission? Essentially, this question asks whether your company jibes with your life’s goals and values. Does it require you, for instance, to travel more than you’d like, given your chosen work-life balance? Does it offer enough upward mobility, given your level of ambition? There are no right or wrong answers to such questions, only a sense of whether you are investing your time at the right or wrong company for you.

Fourth and finally, can you picture yourself at your company in a year? We use that time frame because that’s how long it usually takes to find a new, better job once you decide to move on. So peer, as best you can, into the future, and predict where you’ll be in the organization, what work you’ll be doing, whom you will be managing, and who will be managing you. If that scenario strikes you with anything short of excitement, then you’re spinning your wheels. Or put another way, you’re just about to stay too long.

To be clear: We’re not suggesting people quit at the first inkling of discontent. No matter where you work, at some point you will have to endure difficult times, and even a deadly dull assignment, to survive a crisis or move up. But it makes little sense to stay and stay at a company because of inertia. Unlock your door and get out. – Jack and Suzy Welch

This Could Be the Most Underrated Tactic for Boosting Employee Morale

compassion, heart

 

 

 

 

 

There is plenty of advice out there about how to boost employee morale. Some saycompensation matters most. Others say it’s more about empowering workers. But there could be a fix that’s vastly underrated: Try showing employees more compassion.

Wharton management professor Sigal Barsade and George Mason University assistant management professor Olivia “Mandy” O’Neill conducted a 16-month study on the effects of “compassionate love,” which includes empathy, caring for someone’s feelings and life, and listening to a person’s needs, at a long-term health care facility with 185 employees, 108 patients, and 42 patient relatives. The study revealed, as reported in Knowledge@Wharton,University of Pennsylvania’s business school blog, that compassion can increase employee morale and a sense of teamwork, and even trickles down to boost customer satisfaction.

Barsade and O’Neill conducted a second study with 3,201 employees across seven industries and found similar results–a culture of compassion increased employee commitment, accountability, and performance.

And if you’re confused, professional compassionate love doesn’t involve snuggling, kissing, or hugs. The technique is more subtle–and appropriate–than that. It means simple acts of tenderness and affection, from asking how an employee’s family is doing to grabbing an extra cup of coffee and putting it on someone’s desk when you get one for yourself.

“[Management and executives] should be thinking about the emotional culture,” Barsade told Knowledge@Wharton. “It starts with how they are treating their own employees when they see them. Are they showing these kinds of emotions? And it informs what kind of policies they put into place. This is something that can definitely be very purposeful–not just something that rises organically.”

Below, read how showing a little compassion, tenderness, and affection at work can improve your organization.

Fewer Sick Days, More Engagement

Barsade and O’Neill’s two studies found that being careful of listening to employees and being aware of their feelings can reduce sick days and burnout. By making the office more loving and less stressful, employees will feel more comfortable and appreciated.

During the first study, the researchers tracked employee withdrawal by asking workers about their feelings of emotional exhaustion and looking at absenteeism rates. Groups of employees who had higher levels of compassionate love had lower levels of exhaustion and sick days. The groups with higher compassion rates were also more team-oriented and satisfied with their jobs.

Increased Customer Satisfaction

Barsade and O’Neill also measured the effect of a culture of compassion on the patients and their families. By tracking the patients’ health, the first study found that patients who were taken care of by employees in the compassionate culture had fewer trips to the emergency room. Satisfaction rates also increased. “Even though this has to do with how employees are treating each other, and not necessarily how they are treating their clients, we argue that if they treat each other with caring, compassion, tenderness, and affection, that will spill over to residents and their families,” Barsade tells Knowledge@Wharton.

Lower Work-Life Issues

These two studies have also spawned similar ones in different fields of employment. O’Neill has just teamed up with Wharton management professor Nancy Rothbard to study firefighters. What they have found is that compassionate love on the job can decrease instances of negative effects a job has on the employee’s family. “What we see is that companionate love acts as a helper for the problems they struggle with at work and outside of work,” O’Neill says. “For example, [firefighters] tend to have high levels of work-family conflict because of the stress that comes from the job. Companionate love actually helps to buffer the effect of job stress and work-family conflict on other outcomes.”

BY WILL YAKOWICZ