16 Basic Principles for Avoiding Stupidity

Don't be an idiot

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early in my career, someone told me that “not being an idiot is a sustainable competitive advantage.” Unbelievably, it’s the truth. It’s easy to jump past the basics and focus on the challenging, and often confusing, topics that seemingly lead to success.

But the longer I live, the more I’m convinced that understanding and consistently practicing a handful of basic principles, like the 16 below, is the surest path to success. As Shane Parrishsaid, “Spend less time trying to be brilliant and more time trying to avoid obvious stupidity.”

1. Follow Through: Just do what you said you were going to do when you said you were going to do it. If you quoted a price, stick with it. If you promised something, deliver.

2. Say “Thank You”: The world doesn’t owe you anything, so don’t act like it does. When someone acts in your best interest, thank him. If you’re given a gift, thank the person who thought of you. If you’re particularly pleased with someone’s performance…you get the idea.

3. Be On Time: Circumstances occasionally cause a justified aberration. But most of the time, tardiness signals self-importance, a lack of respect, and disorganization. As the saying goes, “Five minutes early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable.”

4. Use Impeccable Grammar: This is the clearest canary in the mine. If someone can’t properly spell, punctuate, or structure a sentence, chances are he a) is not well-educated, b) lacks attention to detail, and c) doesn’t care. Any way you slice it, bad grammar is bad news.

5. Say “Sorry”: Being wrong is being human. Just own up to it, and everyone will move on. Apologizing conveys that you a) care, b) are humble, and c) are self-aware. It’s incredible how much a genuine “sorry” can make up for.

6. Be Intentional: We all have the same amount of time. You can choose to randomly stumble around, hoping to bump into money, meaning, love, friendships, and opportunities. Or you can be intentional. It’s your choice, every single day.

7. Question Why: The smartest people in the world know what they don’t know, and they aren’t scared to look ignorant. If you don’t understand, ask “Why?” until you get it. This simple technique is the greatest antidote for the illogical and inexplicable.

8. Default to SilenceThere’s a reason you have two ears and only one mouth. If you don’t have something meaningful to say, keep your trap shut. This ensures that when a significant thought does arise, people might actually listen.

9. Set Expectations: The formula is simple: Happiness = Reality — Expectations. Changing reality is hard. Setting expectations is easy. Under-promise and fill reality with happiness.

10. Take Responsibility: We love to rationalize blame. While it feels good to play the victim, it’s incredibly destructive, leading to a cynical and jaded life. The far better approach is to say, “It’s all my fault.” It gives you control to change yourself and your circumstances.

11. Say “No”: Life is a game of opportunity costs. If you say “yes,” you’re saying “no” to something else. Have clear priorities, pursue opportunities that align, and say “no” to everything else.

12. Continuously Learn: If you wake up each day trying to get a little better, before long, you’ll find yourself ahead. Read, ask, and listen. If something conflicts with your worldview, dig deeper and determine whether you should embrace it or discard it.

13. Embrace Simplicity: Small bits of complexity add up quickly and exponentially. A little white lie can get you fired. A little gossip can ruin a friendship. A little kiss can end a marriage. Enough small splurges can lead to bankruptcy. Given a choice, always choose simplicity.

14. Gain Perspective: We measure ourselves by our intentions, but others by their actions. But you’re not a special snowflake. Everyone else, regardless of how convinced you are that they’re “doing fine,” is struggling with something. Remember that to have some perspective.

15. Check Yourself: As Warren Buffett says, “Negotiating with one’s self seldom produces a barroom brawl.” Surround yourself with people who will a) call you on your BS, b) thoughtfully help you reason, and c) genuinely understand your weaknesses.

16. Avoid Eating Crap: You were given exactly one container for this life, and the quickest way to damage it is by consistently eating lab-concocted, food-like substances pumped full of chemicals, hormones, and fake nutrition. Simply eat real food that came from something previously living in a recognizable form.

The truth is that 100 percent consistency is impossible, and I’m certainly no exception. In the past two weeks, I’ve been late to a meeting, parroted some gossip, and failed to say “sorry” to two  people who deserved to hear it — and that’s just what I can recall. But I’m constantly striving to walk the talk, and I encourage you to do the same. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” -Brent Beshore

Management Lessons: Moving Beyond Our Mistakes

mistake

 

 

I departed the plane and as soon as I crossed the security threshold I remembered the book, still on the plane in the seat pocket. It had only been five minutes and the plane was only one hundred yards away but it was impossible to sprint back. I had no boarding pass to get back through security. After pleading with United customer service, I filed the report and was assured the book would be returned. I was so mad at myself I couldn’t see straight.

But there was a lost and found and, after all, my name and phone number were prominently displayed on the front page.

That was months ago. The prized notebook never showed up. I was so crazed to find the book that the day after I left it on the plane, I went back to the airport looking for the lost and found office. The closest thing to a lost and found was the lost luggage counter. A nice woman there informed me there was a room where such things were stored until they were claimed or sent to the rightful owner. I pleaded with a nice woman behind the desk that since I am here now, to please let me check the inventory. She relented, but informed me it was against policy. It might have been my tears that swayed her.

In the lost luggage “room” I was transformed. It was like a home for broken toys and abandoned dreams. The shelves were full of iPods, iPads, laptops, prized notebooks just like mine (but not mine), well-loved stuffed animals, jackets and other priceless items. I thought the items might come alive and develop into a Pixar movie. I gave up on finding the notebook at that point but not on being mad at myself for making such a stupid mistake.

We all get mad at ourselves for making mistakes and we all have stories to tell. I am no exception. There was the time:

  • I hit the “Reply All” button and the message went to all the wrong people. It was too late, the message was out there and I had to go into recovery mode. I was so mad at myself I vowed to never use “Reply All” again.
  • I made an off-hand comment that someone overheard. It was the one person I didn’t want to hear the comment. I kicked myself – I should know better.
  • I drove away with a latte on top of my car where it spilled all over the roof. I had a messed up car and no coffee. I was pissed.
  • Someone gave me the middle finger recently and I responded in a way that had my blood boiling – at myself.

Being the glass half-full guy, I wondered, “When we all get furious at ourselves for making mistakes, is there anything to learn from the anger?” The answer is yes; managers need to keep the self-loathing under control. What can we all learn from our mistakes and anger?

  • Plan – Almost all of my anger-induced events could be traced to sloppy planning.
  • Delegate – If I gave more work away I wouldn’t be so busy and sloppy with my planning.
  • Think – Being thoughtful in how I approach each project and activity would help keep the blood pressure down.
  • Manage Time Better – Being late or overbooked always creates problems.

I suspect that no matter how much we plan, delegate, think and manage time, there will always be those day-to-day events or mistakes we make, after all, nobody’s perfect. Maybe the more important lesson is that when we make mistakes, to recover quickly. And when we’re mad at ourselves, to make sure that we don’t take it out on others in the workplace. -Richard A. Moran

7 Ways to Win Every Argument

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Entrepreneurs are passionate people. We want  to be heard. But often, knowing when to shut up can benefit you immensely.  Cultivating your ability to hold your tongue is important.

Make no mistake, this is something I still struggle with every day. But after  twenty years of wishing I’d just kept quiet that one time — here’s my advice:

1. Remember, it’s not personal. It’s business. A few  years ago, I sued a major toy company who I thought had infringed on one of my  patented technologies.  Looking back, I think we could have settled the dispute quickly if cooler heads  had prevailed. But I became emotional and so did they. The conflict ended up in  federal court after dragging on for three years, which took an enormous toll on  me. It’s best not to make decisions when you’re emotional. Step back and ask  yourself: Is this the best course of action or am I just upset right now?

2. Pick up the phone. It’s always easier to  miscommunicate over email. You’ll strengthen your relationships by clarifying  what you and the person you’re in contact with really mean simply by picking up  the phone. I have misinterpreted what people have written to me in emails on many occasions. When it comes to sensitive issues in particular — talk it  out; don’t just email.

3. Hit “delete. ” The idea that anyone can win an  argument over the Internet is laughable. For whatever reason, some people enjoy  using their anonymity to be rude and insulting. It’s taken me many years, but I  think the best way to respond to my haters is by not saying anything at all.  Even if you’re calm, collected and reasonable, whatever you write will only fuel  the fire. There are just too many people who get a kick out of riling others up.  If you choose not to engage, you’ll be surprised how quickly the conversation  dies. And, try to have a sense of humor! Usually, I’m enraged when I first read  hateful comments, but later I find them kind of funny.

4. Let go of the need to have the last word. It’s  better to fly under the radar. You may feel great about getting in one last jab,  but more likely than not, someone else is going to remember your flippant  comment long after you do and it will come back to haunt you. It’s just not  worth it. I was surprised to hear Mark  Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks and an investor on Shark  Tank, laugh at the SEC on TV and in the media  after he was accused of insider trading and found not guilty. That didn’t seem  wise. If they had an eye on him before, well, they probably still do now.  Gloating is unattractive.

5. Embrace the idea that sometimes, less is more. We’ve  all been in meetings where someone asks a simple question and the person in  charge goes on and on unnecessarily in response. Remember that most questions  can be answered simply. Remind yourself. Everyone you work with will appreciate  your ability to be concise. And frankly, it’s also polite. We like the sound of  our own voices more than other people do.

6. Realize that certain opinions are best left  unspoken. Yes, everyone is entitled to an opinion. But that  doesn’t mean we need to offer all of ours up. The other day, Martha  Stewart declared that she doesn’t think bloggers are experts. Okay,  Martha. Sure, that’s your opinion. But I think that was foolish of her, because  I’m guessing there are many, many bloggers who help promote her lifestyle brand.  What purpose did undermining them serve her? I’m not sure. But it may end up  hurting her business. She needs bloggers and influencers as much as everyone  else does to push her brand.

7. Get comfortable with awkward silences. When it comes  to the art of negotiation, I’ve learned a simple truth: Never speak first. After  I explicitly state what it is I want, I clam up. When we’re uncomfortable with  an awkward silence, it’s tempting to fill it quickly, but if you do, you might  end up saying something without thinking it through. I’ve discovered that the  first person to speak usually loses the argument. So make your point, be  confident and force yourself to wait for a response.

I hope these tips help you as much as they’ve helped me. -Stephen Key

21 Awesome Things to Say to Yourself

businessman-looking-in-mirror-bkt_12170  Self-talk works for some people but not for me. Looking in the mirror and saying, “I am awesome, I am awesome, I am awesome…” is a waste of time since a louder voice in my head is always shouting, “No you’re not! No you’re not!”

But I do like self-talk that results from something I’ve done. Because I’ve earned it, the doubting voice in my head goes silent.

Try it. I guarantee you’ll feel a lot better about yourself. For the next seven days, put aside your standard to-do list and do what it takes to ensure you can say these things to yourself:

1. “I did something no one else was willing to do.” Pick one thing other people aren’t willing to do. Pick something simple. Pick something small. Make the call no one will make. Help the person no one will help. Volunteer for the task everyone else avoids.  Instantly you will be a little different from the rest of the pack. But why stop? Keep going. Every day do one thing no one else is willing to do. After a week you’ll be uncommon. After a month, you’ll be special. After a year you’ll be incredible. You won’t be like anyone else.

You’ll be you.

2. “That wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought…” The most paralyzing fear is fear of the unknown. (At least it is for me.) But nothing ever turns out to be as hard or as scary as you think. Plus it’s exciting to overcome a fear. You’ll get that, “I can’t believe I jumped out of an airplane!” rush, a feeling you may not have experienced for a long time. (And you may find that feeling is addictive, but in a good way.)

3. “It’s totally my fault.” People make mistakes. So we blame them for our problems. But we are almost always to blame, too. Maybe we didn’t provide enough training. Maybe we didn’t foresee a potential problem. Maybe we asked too much, too soon. Maybe we did or did not do something we could or should have. Take responsibility instead: Not in a masochistic, “woe is me” way, but in an empowering way. Take responsibility and then focus on being smarter or better or faster or more creative next time.

4. “I finally got started!” You have plans. You have goals. You have ideas. Who cares? You have nothing until you actually do something. Every day we let hesitation and uncertainty stop us from acting on our ideas. Fear of the unknown and fear of failure often stops me and may be what stops you, too. Pick one plan, one goal, or one idea. And get started. Do something. Do anything. Just take one small step.

The first step is by far the hardest. Every successive step will be a lot easier.

5. “You’re great.” No one receives enough praise. No one. Pick someone who did something well and tell them. Feel free to go back in time. Saying, “I was just thinking about how you handled that project last year” can make just as positive an impact today as it would have then… and maybe a little more impact because you still remember what happened a year later.

Surprise praise is a gift that costs the giver nothing but is priceless to the recipient.

6. “I’ll show you, –hole.” I’m ashamed to admit it, but one of the best ways to motivate me is to insult me (or for me to manufacture a way to feel insulted, regardless of whether I’m justified in feeling that way or not.) Whether I’m justified in feeling slighted or angry is not the point: I use rejection to fuel my motivation to do whatever it takes to prove that person wrong and, more importantly, achieve what I want to achieve.  Call it manufactured anger. Call it artificial competition. Call it, shoot, childish and immature. I don’t care — it works for me. And it can work for you.

So don’t turn the other mental cheek. Get pissed off, even if your anger is unjustified and imaginary — in fact, especially if your anger is unjustified or angry — because that will help shake you out of your same thing different day rut.

7. “Can you help me?” Asking someone for help instantly recognizes their skills and values and conveys your respect and admiration. That’s reason enough to ask someone for help — the fact you will get the help you need is icing on the achievement cake.

8. “Can I help you?” Then flip it around. Many people see asking for help as a sign of weakness so they hesitate. Yet we can all use help. But don’t just say, “Is there anything I can help you with?” Most people will automatically say, “No, I’m all right.” Be specific. Say, “I’ve got a few minutes, can I help you finish that?” Offer in a way that feels collaborative, not patronizing or gratuitous.

And then actually help. You’ll make a real difference in someone’s life–and you’ll take a solid step towards creating a connection with that person.

9. “I don’t care what other people think.” Most of the time you should worry, at least a little, about what other people think… but not if it stands in the way of living the life you really want to live. If you really want to start a business but you’re worried people might think you’re crazy, F ’em. If you really want to change careers but you’re afraid of what people might think, F ’em. If you really want to start working out but you’re afraid people at the gym will think you’re fat or out of shape, F ’em.  Pick one thing you haven’t tried simply because you’re worried about what other people think — and just go do it.

It’s your life. Live it. F ’em.

10. “They’re no different than me.” Incredibly successful people don’t necessarily succeed because they’re smarter or more talented or somehow genetically gifted. The only thing that makes them different from you is the fact they have done what you haven’t done… yet. Find someone successful to talk to; you’ll come away realizing what they have done, you can do too.

You’ll realize you can be them — or, more importantly, you can be better than them.

11. “I’m really sorry.” We’ve all screwed up. We all have things we need to apologize for: Words. Actions. Omissions. Failing to step up, step in, or be supportive. Pick someone you need to apologize to — the more time that’s passed between the day it happened and today, the better. But don’t follow up your apology with a disclaimer like, “But I was really upset…” or, “I thought you were…” or any statement that in any way places even the tiniest amount of blame back on the other person.

Say you’re sorry, say why you’re sorry, and take all the blame. Then you’ll both be in a better place.

12. “I’m the king of the world!” Maybe Leo was on to something. According to Harvard professor Amy Cuddy, two minutes of power posing — standing tall, holding your arms out or towards the sky, or standing like Superman with your hands on hips — will dramatically increase your confidence. Try it before you step into a situation where you know you’ll feel nervous, insecure, or intimidated. (Just make sure no one is watching.)

It may sound freaky, but it works.

13. “Yes.” You’re busy. Your plate is full. There are plenty of reasons to sit tight, safe, keep things as they are. But that also means tomorrow will be just like today. So say yes to something different. Say yes to something scary. Say yes to the opportunity you’re most afraid of. When you say yes, you’re really saying, “I trust myself.”

Trust yourself.

14. “No.” Still, you can’t do everything. You can’t help everyone. You may want to but you can’t. Sometimes you just need to say no: to a favor, to a request, to a family member. Sometimes you really need to be able to focus on what is important to you. Say no at least once this week — the harder it is to say, the better.

And don’t worry if you feel selfish: When your heart is in the right place, what you accomplish by spending more time on your goals will eventually benefit other people, too.

15. “You’re fired.” Maybe there’s an employee you really need to let go but haven’t. Or maybe there’s a customer, or a vendor, or even just a friend. Sometimes the best addition starts with subtraction. Pick someone who is dragging you down or holding you back and let them go.

16. “It’s not perfect… and that’s okay.” Yeah, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Yeah, perfection is the only acceptable outcome. Unfortunately, no product or service is ever perfect, and no project or initiative is perfectly planned. Work hard, do great work, and let it fly. Your customers or your boss will tell you what needs to be improved — which means you’ll get to make improvements that actually matter.

You can’t find out until you let go. You can’t really accomplish anything until you let go.

17. “That’s not my job… but who cares?” Job descriptions are fine until they get in the way of getting things done. No matter what your role or what you’ve accomplished, you’re never too good to roll up your sleeves, get dirty, and do a little grunt work. No job is ever too menial, no task too unskilled or boring.

The next time you see something that needs to be done, do it.

18. “Maybe I should do it that way.” Sure, we’re all individuals. (Okay, I’m not.) We should always set our own courses and follow our own paths. But sometimes the best thing to do is copy what made someone else successful. Pick someone who has accomplished what you would like to accomplish, and follow that path.

One time, don’t try to reinvent a perfectly good wheel.

19. “Jeez, that was stupid. We should do it again!” Sometimes the dumbest things result in our fondest memories: The time you and two employees stayed up all night loading trucks and listening to every Zeppelin album in order; the time you and another employee drove all night so you could arrive at the customer’s warehouse first thing the next morning to sort defective product; the time you and a crew stayed in the plant all weekend during a snowstorm, sleeping on cots and eating vending machine food and cranking out product… All those happened years ago but the memories are surprisingly vivid.

Do something seemingly stupid or outrageous or crazy, the harder the better. You probably won’t love it while it’s happening, but the result will be doing something cool and creating a memory that will always make you smile.

20. “Hi, Mom! Hi Dad!” Your parents love you. They want the best for you. They will always be there for you.

They won’t be around forever. Call them.

21. Nothing. Self talk is awesome, but sometimes, at the end of a day when you’ve worked incredibly hard and kicked serious ass and still made time for friends and family and done everything possible to make sure all the important pieces of your world are in place and taken care of……look in the mirror, smile, and just nod at the person looking back.

Sometimes the best way to end a great day is with a silent acknowledgement of achievement and fulfillment. -Inc Magazine

Need a Pep Talk?

need-pep-talkIn speaking with a variety of entrepreneurs on a daily basis, I’ve noticed a surprising theme: a lack of confidence.

From sales to management, there is always something we feel we can do better. And for those just launching their own business, hearing ‘no’ or dealing with mishaps can take an even bigger toll on your self-esteem. You learn very quickly that working for yourself is an emotional roller coaster, to say the least.

Ironically, when I first started my PR firm fifteen media, I was filled with self-assurance (or more like arrogance). I thought it would be a piece of cake to build my own business.

As I started to get more clients, my overinflated ego would soon deflate. A combination of dealing with not-so-happy clients and constant rejection from the press, made it hard to maintain confidence in my company. To this day, it can still be a challenge to unwaveringly believe in my abilities.

So while I know the difficulty first hand, I also know what a little burst of confidence can do. Here are some tips for giving your self esteem a boost:

Don’t wallow. A few months ago, a client decided to let me go before my contract was up. Despite all my best efforts, I just wasn’t getting them the results they wanted. It caused me to have a full-on emotional breakdown, and it made me question if I was a good publicist.

From that experience, I learned that if I was going to persevere on, I had to get over these scenarios. I have established a one-hour pity party rule, meaning when things don’t go my way, I only have one hour to dwell on it and then it’s back to business.

When you start to feel sorry for yourself, channel positive energy into your startup — focusing on your other clients, customers, products or what have you.

Seek feedback. I realize asking people to critique you can be scary. However, the only way to create the best business you can is to constantly use feedback to improve. I try to periodically check in with my clients to see how they are feeling about my services.

As an entrepreneur, if you do this often, you help to nip problems in the bud, before they become crises. Also, if you are asking for feedback, it won’t all be negative. Nothing is a better confidence booster than hearing the things you are doing well.

Learn how to cut your losses. The greatest strengths of an entrepreneur are determination and persistence, yet, these qualities can also be her biggest weaknesses. Sometimes you just have to learn how to let go.

There will be times when you have to make the decision to part ways with a client or a vendor. If you two don’t have a synchronized vision or every small detail is an uphill battle, it might be in your interest to say goodbye.

A rocky relationship, centered on all the things you are doing wrong, can be very taxing to your ego. To propel a business forward, you don’t need constant negative energy.

Build a support system. Being an entrepreneur can be an isolating experience, and it is easy to become your own worst enemy. Sometimes, I find myself sitting around obsessing over all the things that aren’t quite right. Why isn’t my company growing faster? Will client X rehire me again? Why can’t I get more placements?

Negative thoughts can be very time consuming and detrimental to your vision, so it’s essential to surround yourself with positive people to snap you back to reality. Having a support system to lean on will make you realize there is a world out there beyond your business, which is essential for your mental health.

As an entrepreneur, confidence is your best asset and will be a critical component to building a successful business. However, it can be hard to maintain confidence when you are constantly dealing with rejection. I never used to believe it when people told me that entrepreneurial confidence comes along with time. Once you have seen your business prove itself, you will see the light. In the meantime, fake it until you make it. -Rebekah Epstein is the founder of fifteen media, an agency that works exclusively with PR firms to streamline media relations in a digital era. -Rebekah Epstein is the founder of fifteen media, an agency that works exclusively with PR firms to streamline media relations in a digital era. – Rebekah Epstein

How do you build up your confidence? Let us know in the comment section below.

 

 

What It Takes to Be a Boss Every Employee Loves

takes-boss-everyone-loves, leadership, relationships, behavior

Being a successful leader means being good at what you do and possessing integrity. But more than anything, it’s about your ability to build healthy relationships with others — particularly those who work for you.

As an entrepreneur, you’re viewed differently than you were when you were a manager or colleague in a traditional job. You stand to gain the most from the company’s success, and it is easier for your employees to think you’re more interested in the business than them and their lives. Your success is paramount, but it shouldn’t be achieved at the expense of healthy relationships with those you depend on.

1. Don’t treat people as transactions.
Years ago in my first real job out of college, I was delighted to have my very own assistant. She was a very capable and competent woman who I really liked. One day while a client was visiting the office, I made the naïve mistake of introducing my assistant by saying, “This is Teri. She works for me.” Teri’s response would have served me better in private, but her point was valid none-the-less: “I work with you, Mark, not for you.”

I meant no ill respect with my choice of words, but it suggested to Teri that she was a means to an end, that I was “above” her. And while technically she did report to me, the difference between working for and with someone is critical. The former can make a person feel conquered, while the latter signals collaboration.

Think through how you title and refer to your employees. Focus on reciprocity: look for ways you can help them achieve their work-life goals while they help you achieve yours. And guard against letting tasks trump a true regard and appreciation for the relationship you have with those who have voluntarily chosen to work with you.

2. Invest in those you value.
The ultimate test of value in a relationship is how much time, interest and support you are willing to invest. Rather than ask, “What have you done for me lately?” turn the tables and ask yourself what you’ve done lately for those you truly value.

Here’s one way to invest for great dividends: identify the potential in an employee that he or she doesn’t recognize in him- or herself. Often people are blind to their own abilities or potential, and good leaders not only recognize these latent strengths, they help develop them.

Several years ago, my office manager was spending more time on our website and technology platforms. A colleague was presenting a multi-day event in Las Vegas that I knew would give my team member information and skills to help her in these areas. Going to Las Vegas for the event was an added perk, so I gladly paid for the seminar and trip. She came back better equipped for her work, knowing I was willing to invest in her success.

3. Be involved, but know your limits.

You can work in the same office space with people every day and still be absent because you are preoccupied with your own worries. An open door policy means nothing if you don’t stop what you’re doing long enough to give your attention to those who walk through it.

How can you do this? Make it a point to “check in” with every employee each day. That means a simple but sincere question: “How are things going?” Listen and if necessary, probe for information you can use to support your employees. Identify frustrations they are facing, opportunities they’ve recognized and gauge their emotional energy and commitment to their work.

You’ll know you’re micromanaging when you’re spending more time telling someone how to do something than you are in clarifying what needs to be done. A thorough explanation with a chance to ask questions is vastly different than a droning presentation about how you’d do it. Give people the freedom to achieve the best results in their own way.

4. Show your gratitude.
I’ve heard a lot of complaints from employees who feel underappreciated by their manager, but I’ve never heard anyone complain they were recognized, rewarded or appreciated too much. I’m puzzled at why so many entrepreneurs and leaders are reticent to voice appreciation. Don’t be afraid of over-doing it. You connect with people more deeply when you recognize the best in them and let them know.

Here’s a powerful way to show appreciation: When you get feedback from a customer about someone on your team who has done a great job, get their permission to record it. Then play the recording at the next team meeting. There is even more power in a customer’s expression of a job well done than simply acknowledging it yourself.

Growing your business successfully means doing all that you can to make your team want to work their hardest for your cause. That means connecting with employees in a meaningful way.

By Mark Sanborn  an author, speaker and president of Sanborn & Associates Inc., a leadership development firm based in Lonetree, Colo.

What do you do to deepen your connections with employees?

5 Reasons Your Employees Probably Hate You

employees, boss, leadership, relationship, retention

 

Many years ago I worked for a company whose CEO was a stickler for how many hours employees worked. He made a point to note who came early and who stayed late. He considered anyone who didn’t a slacker.

As far as I know, nobody ever told him how shortsighted his approach was. Instead of rewarding results, he rewarded butt-in-chair time. Instead of focusing on output, he focused on input. Most hated the practice, but nobody told him.

How many of your behaviors drive your employees silently crazy that you don’t know about? Here are five leadership missteps to look out for:

1. You reward the wrong things. 
What gets rewarded gets done. It is such a familiar axiom of management that it is nearly cliché. It is, however, completely true. Where you focus your attention focuses your employees’ attention. What you notice, note and reward will get done more frequently.

Identify and focus on the results that matter. And don’t be like the executive above who confused activity with accomplishment.

2. You don’t listen. 
Even if your employees told you about a qualm of theirs, you might not really hear them. It is too easy to be distracted and pre-occupied.

Becoming a better listener is actually quite easy. When an employee is in your workspace to talk, turn off your email alerts, close your door and let your monitor go into sleep mode. Give your undivided attention to the person in front of you. They will feel you value them, and you’ll likely increase the quality and speed of the interaction.

3. You don’t notice what your employees are doing.
Brittney was a financial manager at a client firm. She was bubbly and outgoing. She also had the ability to draw attention to her “contributions,” though many weren’t that significant. Employees hated her self-aggrandizement. But they also disliked that management noted Brittney’s efforts because they were easily observed. Leaders didn’t pay attention to the good and often better work others were doing.

Great work is often done backstage, out of the spotlight. The glitter of self-promotion doesn’t blind great entrepreneurs. They seek out those people doing good work and make it a point to notice. Pay attention to people who do good work and let them know. And don’t get suckered by people who are better at promoting themselves than producing results.

4. Your attitude sucks. 

Bill is an entrepreneur who constantly complains about how terrible his employees are at delivering customer service. He berates and belittles even their best efforts. And yet he’s puzzled why those same employees treat customers poorly. The irony escapes him.

Attitudes are contagious. Mirror neurons pick up on and are affected by the moods of those around us. Leaders are especially powerful in influencing the mood of those on their team.

Don’t expect others to be more upbeat than you or treat customers better than you treat them. There are a few entrepreneurs who might have dodged this bullet, but not enough to be statistically significant. Your attitude is contagious, so pay attention to how you act at work each day.

5. You can’t keep your mouth shut. 
A young entrepreneur we will call Bob loved to share insider information about others. At one after-work beer session, he shared something HR told him confidentially about a coworker who was not at the gathering. It was less than flattering and was instantly off-putting to those in the group. The employee, a valued and productive member of the team, learned of the betrayal of confidence and was outraged. She left the company soon after.

Don’t think that trust can be effectively compartmentalized. If you’re known to be untrustworthy in your personal life, few will trust you in your professional dealings. If people don’t trust you, they will follow, but out of compliance instead of commitment.

No one is a mind-reader. If you want to find out why your team is dissatisfied to be a better leader, work on building trust and being equally open to both good and bad news. Ask them what they really think. And most importantly: listen.                 -Mark Sanborn

Finding Leaders Starts by Listening

 

 

 

 

This morning I commented on an article in a Group I’m in on LinkedIn. It was an article about the gender gap and why men are still paid more than their female counterparts. My comment on that article is that I believe a change will come, where women will become more recognized for their leadership style and therefore this will eventually cause the gap to narrow. Immediately after I made that comment I saw an article written by Lou Adler and wanted to share it with you…it supports my point!

leadership, vision, execution, CEO, leadership

If I had a bigger napkin I would have written this:

The Less Simple Formula for Assessing Leadership = Identify the Problem, Find a Solution, Develop a Workable Plan, Inspire Others, Deliver the Results

The story started many years ago, but was retold last week while having breakfast with a former client. The napkin was handy. When a client, he was the CEO of a mid-sized company, and my search firm had placed most of his senior management team. Now he’s on the board of a dozen or so different charitable organizations, university groups, and privately held companies. In his new role he’s still confronting the same hiring challenges as before: finding enough leaders. My company today is no longer a search firm. We now help companies set up programs to find and hire leaders of all types. Sometimes these leaders are engineers, accountants or sales reps. Sometimes they’re business executives or someone working on the shop floor. Regardless of the role, it’s not hard to identify leaders when you know what you’re looking for. This is where napkins come in handy, at least as a starting point.

Before I started working with this CEO, I had an assignment with a major LA-based entertainment company looking for a corporate director of accounting. The ideal candidate needed a CPA from a top accounting firm, and at least 5-10 additional years of experience working at the corporate office of a publicly-traded company. One of my candidates for the role was a young woman who was a senior manager with one of the major accounting firms. While her clients were publicly-traded companies, she didn’t have any hands-on industry experience. More challenging, she only had seven years of total experience, not the 10-15 listed on the job description. There was no question she was an exceptional person, and the VP Controller was more than willing to meet her. After the interview we both agreed she was a very strong person, but too light for the position. She never got this message.

Before I could break the bad news she wasn’t going to be considered for the job, she said something like, “I don’t want this job the way it’s currently structured. There is no way anyone could accomplish the overhaul of the department as defined given the resources and time frame currently specified. If you want me to consider this job there are five things that must happen.” She then spent another 10 minutes describing what she needed in terms of resources, staff and system support including a rough time-phased implementation plan. It was a remarkable plan. So remarkable, I never had a chance to tell her she was not getting the job. Instead, I called the VP Controller, and told him he had to hear directly what this woman proposed, even if he didn’t hire her. He enthusiastically invited her back and with a few other directors in the room asked her to describe her plan for rebuilding the accounting department. After about three hours he made her the offer. She accepted. Eighteen months later she was promoted into a bigger job after successfully completing the initial project.

What this woman did was simply amazing. As a result, I started rethinking how the best people I had placed up to that point answered questions. The best engineers could always visualize the technical problem, figure out a way to solve it and put a plan together. One plant manager candidate put a plan together on a flip chart on how to set up a global manufacturing and distribution center. The best sales reps could develop approaches to handle the most difficult clients. YMCA camp counselors could develop daily activities to ensure even their quietest kids would have a great experience every day. And it goes on and on. The best people in any job, regardless of their age or level, can visualize the problem they’re facing and figure out a way to solve it.

But this is just the first step in leadership ….

But this is just the first step in leadership – having a vision and being able to articulate it. It’s not enough, though. Not only do you need a detailed plan once the problem is solved, but you also must implement the solution successfully. This requires obtaining the resources, developing and motivating the team, and committing to achieving the objective despite the numerous challenges and obstacles that will always crop up.

The ability to articulate a vision combined with a track record of achieving comparable results was how the two-question Performance-based Interview described in The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired was developed. One question involves asking candidates to describe how they’d go about figuring out how to accomplish a major objective or realistic job-related problem. The other question asks them to describe something they’ve done that’s most comparable. (Here’s a link to a summary of the Anchor and Visualize two-question process.) After asking these two questions a few times for your biggest job-related challenges, you can be confident about hiring someone who has the ability to both visualize a solution when combined with a track record of having accomplished something comparable. One without the other will be a problem.

Be careful. Too often we’re seduced by just the vision and the lofty ideas. Others become overly focused on technical brilliance, or a track record of years of experience. None of this is good enough. Competency without results is just mediocrity. Results without vision is just more of the same. Vision without the ability to deliver results is just a bunch of empty promises. With leadership, everything changes. It starts by listening.

The Future is Now – Humanize Your Product or Service or it Simply Won’t Sell

Future, Brand, Marketing, Culture, Selling, StrategyBrands often look to the future for clues on how to adapt to changing technology and culture. But much of what futurists say is coming can be acted upon today (e.g. human-centric branding).

To learn about what the future may bring to digital marketing, Dana Rousmaniere spoke with Gerd Leonhard, “one of the leading media-futurists in the world.”  Here are a few salient points from the from the discussion on the HBR blog of what this futurist envisions.

“You’re going to stop buying things from companies that don’t fit your values, just because you can’t see giving them the money.”

“All of the companies of the future will have one big job: to make sure that the customer feels cherished and safeguarded.”

“Data alone will never be enough. You still need to reach consumers on an emotional level. The bottom line for marketers will be that if a product or service isn’t humanized, it won’t sell – because buying something isn’t an intellectual process of saying “this could be useful”; it’s saying “I really want this.”

Why wait for the future to come?

I believe the future Mr. Leonard is painting is already here – or, at least his insights are ready to be put to use right now. Here’s how:

Make your brand, product, and services better fit with the needs, values, interests, and aspirations of people – so they can see the point of giving you the money.

Go beyond the concept of brand utility to brand feelings – make kick-ass products that solve problems AND do it in a way that make people feel cherished (valued, appreciated) and safeguarded (secure, protected).

Reach out on an emotional level – humanize your brand, products, and services in ways that break down barriers, encourage participation, and clear the path to decisions that benefit your bottom line.

Empathy, purpose, emotion – the keystones of success

Start with extreme empathy – put your business interests aside and come to understand what people are seeking on a very basic human level.

Embrace a purpose – one that takes your ambition beyond profits and shareholder returns and into the fertile grounds of meaning.

Create an emotional aura around your brand, product, or service – a unique set of emotions which make people feel gratified, which they readily internalize, and which influence the way they think, feel, and act on behalf of your brand – now and in the future.   – Jerry Holtaway, Emotivator Brand