Want to Be a True Performer? Do This…

Categories Inspiration, Your CareerPosted on

You’re excited about your new job. You want to make an impact. You hit the ground running.

Over time, you build new relationships, deliver good results, and make a name for yourself.

  • A few weeks pass.
  • Weeks become months.
  • Months become years.
  • You grow comfortable.

If you see yourself or a colleague falling into the comfort zone, perhaps it’s time to do what all true achievers do:

Proactively Chose to Move Out of Their Comfort Zone & Break the Cycle

Why would you possibly do this? After all, it can be risky, takes work, and you might mess up.

Well, here are 3 reasons to give it a try…

1. Deliver New Results. 

Achieving better results, requires a change in human behavior. In other words, it you want to achieve something new, you better step out of your comfort zone and start doing some new things. This isn’t a wildly new concept, but it is often forgotten.

Remember what Albert Einstein said..

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – Albert Einstein

2. Keep Work Interesting

Most organizations are looking for marathon runners. These people are great long-term contributors who remain loyal to the organization for years. The problem with marathons is they can become boring. They are monotonous.

Most true achievers struggle with monotony.

To be effective, true achievers embrace the practice of both marathoners and sprinters. Yes, they are committed for the long-term, but they remain interested by running multiple sprints along the way. They take on new projects, tackle new challenges, and strive to move a key metric every quarter.

3. Maintain Brain Plasticity

Our brains have the ability to change physically, chemically, and functionally – but, you have to use it or lose it. Children can quickly learn new things; however, as we age we often lose much of this ability. It’s much easier to learn a new language at 3 years old than when you are 50. It’s not impossible at 50, but it’s arguably much harder.

Sometimes, you need to break the cycle.

If you haven’t heard of him, let me introduce you to Destin Sandlin. He’s a rocket engineer and creator of the Smarter Every Day video series.

My colleague, Josh Chase, introduced me to Destin’s work.

One of his videos teaches all about brain plasticity in which he truly breaks the cycle.

In his situation, he breaks a bicycle!

Watch this video. The Backwards Brain Bicycle (approximately 7 minutes) truly changed the way I think about my brain.

I wish you all the best as you proactively chose to step out of your comfort zone and break the cycle!

6 Ways to Be Invaluable @ Work

Categories Your CareerPosted on

Over the past twenty years, I have been surrounded by many top performers:

  • Courageous fellow paratroopers in the U.S. Army
  • Amazing colleagues at both a global consulting firm and my own professional services agency
  • Outstanding leaders throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Asia
  • Brilliant students at one of the nation’s top universities

As I consider what makes many of them outstanding, I have come to the realization that they exhibit six behaviors that make them invaluable at work.

I invite you to take a minute to review each behavior and consider the questions I offer.

1. Deliver Results; Don’t Just Pleasantly Accomplish Activities

Top performers may be funny, personable, kind, considerate, or a variety of other wonderful attributes. However, above all, they deliver results.

I’m not saying that the above mentioned attributes aren’t helpful. They are. They make working with someone much more enjoyable. But, when times are tough and expectations are high, leaders don’t need a friend, they need a top performer who delivers the goods.

Consider yourself…

  • Is your reputation one as a person who delivers results?
  • Do you confuse activities with results?
  • When was the last time that you and your team failed to deliver as expected? What did you team learn from the situation?

2. Solve Problems; Don’t Just Point Them Out

Top performers aren’t afraid to jump in with both feet to help fix a problem. They don’t merely stand on the sidelines or complain about the complexities of work.

They don’t seek glory or work to fix blame; they seek to solve problems and put steps in place to avoid future pitfalls. They are proactive problem solvers.

Consider yourself…

  • What problems exist within your team or organization that are going unaddressed? (Odds are you aren’t the only one who sees them.)
  • What might you do today to begin to proactively addressing problems in your midst?

3. Learn New Stuff; Don’t Just Be Comfortable

Top performers actively develop new skills. They put themselves into new situations, wade into uncharted waters, and willingly place themselves in uncomfortable positions.

Why would they do this?

Well, they recognize that investing time in learning new things makes them more valuable to the organization, more helpful to their teammates, and more marketable in future situations.

Consider yourself…

  • Would people consider you and your team members active learners?
  • What book are you currently reading? What skills are you honing?
  • When was the last time you taught a customer or employee something new?

4. Experience the Customer’s World; Don’t Just Observe It

Top performers understand and practice the concept of being in their customer’s world. They care about the customer winning as much as the customer cares. They demonstrate an unmatched level of customer understanding that eludes their peers and competitors.

Consider yourself…

  • Who are the most important customers that you and your team serve?
  • What matters most to them?
  • What can you and your team do today to better help your customers win?

5. Provide Value That Is Not Easily Replaced; Don’t Just Do the Job

Top performers are not irreplaceable, but they are not easily replaced. You can’t simply hire another person with the same skills, experience, and education as a top performer, get him up-to-speed on his role, and not feel the loss.

Why?

Because a top performer makes a distinctive contribution. They add value over and above their job description.

Consider yourself…

  • How easy would it be to replace you and your team?
  • What can your team do to be more valuable to your customers? What can you do?

6. Think Abundantly, Don’t Fall Into the Scarcity Trap

Much of your work will likely involve participating as a member of a team. If you want to contribute your best effort, help your team members win, and avoid isolating yourself from your colleagues, work on your mindset and your behaviors will follow. Recognize that the pie can be big enough for all to win AND your winning doesn’t require someone else on your team to lose.

Consider yourself…

  • Do you operate from a win-win mindset, where both you and your colleagues can win?
  • When you are listening to a colleague, do you listen with the intent to understand or to simply find a space in the conversation to interject your ‘wisdom’?

Final thought…

Am I suggesting that these are the only behaviors necessary?

No.

I am simply suggesting that they are key.

I wish you all the best as you work to become a top performer in your chosen endeavors!

Ready to Finally Solve that Organizational Problem? Ask a Local

Categories Leadership & ManagementPosted on

The guy in the photo (below) is my nephew. He lives in New York City. Recently, my family and I spent a weekend with him in the Big Apple.

The excursion led me to an insight about your organization.

Assuming that your organization is made-up of people, processes, programs, etc., I bet that you are struggling to solve a problem or two.

Pretty insightful, right?

Hang in there, I have more to share. Do any of these situations resonate? You’ve:

  • Read every book you can find on the topic of your problem and attempted to implement the ideas you uncovered. Yet, you are still running into the same issues.
  • Invested countless hours Googling about the problem in an attempt to learn how other companies have tackled the challenge. Yet, the problem persists.
  • Spent considerable time, energy, and money on outside counsel and training classes to deal with the problem. Yet, the training wears off and things go back to normal.

If any of these situations resinate with you, take a look at this video as I share my thoughts on what you should do next.

Here’s the reality

Few people in your organization know more about a given project, task, or activity than those who work on it, with it, or near it on a daily basis. These frontline employees are your locals. Yet, when our organizations are faced with problems, we rarely take the time to gain a local’s perspective.

Whether our intentions are positive (e.g., we don’t want to distract locals from what they are doing), negative (e.g., we don’t want to “waste” time asking locals), or somewhere else on the intention spectrum, we often travel down a well worn path. We dream up the answer or employ outside resources to create a solution; then, we spring it on our employees.

Sure, we explain the reasoning behind the solution, discuss why it makes sense, and convey how the solution will make a difference. We wrap the solution up in nice words and, if the deal is big enough, we even serve food.

We do all of this in an effort to minimize objections and gain employee buy-in.

Buy-in is good, but in most cases its insufficient.

If you want to create a solution that will solve the problem today and into the future, reading a book or hiring a consultant may be a great start; however, don’t miss the chance to involve a local.

Locals live in the area, have a different perspective, and can often provide new and unexpected insights.

Disney’s Brand Value Increases 14% to $39.5 Billion: 5 Lessons for Your Brand

Categories Brands & Ads, EntrepreneurshipPosted on

Odds are you know something about Disney brand. Perhaps you’ve:

  • Watched Disney movies
  • Picked a favorite character
  • Made the trek to one of their theme parks
  • Bought a Disney toy
  • Or, interacted in one of a countless number of ways with Walt’s company.

Heck, you may even be a true Disneyphile (yes, that’s a term) defined as:

A Disneyphile is a word for someone who truly loves Disney. It’s usually associated with those who are hardcore into Disney; not your average Disney fan.  – Urban Dictionary

Disney has an extremely strong brand. That’s not just me speaking. Forbes ranks Disney #8 on its 2016 list of World’s Most Valuable Brands at $39.5 billion. That’s up three spots and nearly $5 billion in value over the past year.

Whether you are looking to build your personal or corporate brand, allow me to offer you 5 lessons from Disney’s success:

1. Lead; Don’t Just Differentiate

Disney doesn’t claim that 9 out of 10 kids prefer Mickey Mouse. They don’t advertise that Goofy is 13% funnier than others in his line of work.

Disney opted to be a leader from inception. They chose to be different in kind. The company received acclaim in the 1930s for the first ever full-length animated film. When land was tight in California, they transformed a Florida swamp into a world like no other.

What’s the point?

Differentiation is often a zero sum game.

Painful as it is to admit, your customers don’t live and breathe your company – you do. So, little differences in your products or services often go unnoticed. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How are you positioned against your competitors? Can customers even tell a difference?
  • How could you truly innovate your products or services? Your organization? Your industry?
  • What gap exists in your market that is calling out for a leader?

2. Create a Seamless Experience; Don’t Cause Customers to Pause

Step into a Disney theme park and you are immediately transported to another world. The sights, sounds, and aromas seamlessly work together to create and sustain the fantasy. If a park ‘guest’ sees something out of place, she might pause, and the moment will be ruined. This is key to Disney’s brand and the underlying principle is true for yours as well.

Whether you run a restaurant, manage an accounting firm, package consumer products, or accomplish a myriad of other worthwhile endeavors, you must create a seamless experience. If your customers pause because something feels out of place, the magic of your brand is lost. Consider these questions:

  • What type of experience are you creating for your customers?
  • Is the experience intentional and holistic or is it inconsistent and fragmented?
  • Do you stay true to your brand or do you create gaps that cause your customers to pause because something doesn’t feel right?

3. Drive Interaction; Don’t Settle for Passivity

One of Disney’s more recent animated films, Frozen, was an instant classic. In fact, Disney recently completed a Frozen attraction at Walt Disney World. It allows guests to ‘interact’ with the film, not simply sit in a theater. Guests will wait in line for hours for a chance to ride into the magical world of Frozen.

Fortunately, fans of the film didn’t have to wait for the Frozen ride’s construction to go beyond simply watching the movie. A sing-a-long version ran in theaters and patrons were encouraged to join in the show. Google ‘Frozen videos’ and you will see that fans have invested their personal time to produce Frozen-esque videos. Disney has tapped into the concept that customer participation breeds commitment. Consider these questions:

  • Are your customers investing their time to interact with your products/services?
  • When was the last time you provided your customers opportunities to interact?
  • Can they go to your website, office, or storefront and participate in some way?

4. Produce Memories; Don’t Be Forgettable

If you travel to Disney’s private island, you will likely put out a photo of the trip in your home. It makes sense; that’s a memorable vacation. What is surprising is that when customers visit a Disney store at the local mall, they smile for photos. Now, that’s uncommon. You don’t see people posing for pictures at Wal-Mart.

If you are thinking, “Sure, that works for Disney, but we don’t have loveable characters.” You’re missing the point. You don’t have to be memorable like Disney, you have to be memorable compared to your competitors. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you leave your customers with positive experiences that they are likely to remember?
  • Is your brand lost in a sea of ‘others’ or does it stand out?
  • When a customer looks to use a similar product or service in the future, will they recommend your organization? Or will they have forgotten all about you?

5. Build on Success; Don’t Settle

Walt Disney didn’t settle for Disneyland in California. He built on its success to create Disney World in Florida – many times larger and grander. That innovative spirit continues today. There are theme parks around the world, multiple ESPN channels, second and third versions of movies, Broadway shows, a fleet of cruise ships, and the list goes on and on…

Sure, other businesses grow and develop new offerings or locations. But Disney didn’t do that – nothing feels cookie cutter. Each new offering is unique and arguably better. Consider your brand:

  • Have you grown content with your brand and complacent with your efforts?
  • If you don’t strive for something better, where will you be a few short years from now?
  • What can you do today to capitalize on past success?

————

How Leaders Can Remove The Blindfold & Avoid 4 Blind Spots

Categories Leadership & ManagementPosted on

We all have blind spots. These are things that others know about you, but about which you are completely clueless. They can be small things…

  • A stain on your shirt that everyone sees – except you.
  • A conversation that you arrive late to and say something out of place. Everyone knows the arc of the discussion – except you.
  • A mispronounced word when speaking a foreign language. Everyone knows how to correctly say it – except you.

If you survived your teenage years, you’ve no doubt had at least one of these experiences. You might be embarrassed when the blind spot is revealed; however, the damage is typically not too significant – at least in the long-run.

On the other hand, if you are in a leadership role, some of these blind spots can be particularly costly. They can impact your professional reputation, performance, and organizational results.

In 1955, American psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham created the Johari window to help us better understand how we interact with others. They taught us four areas: open, hidden, unknown, and blind spots.

Open: Known to you and others (e.g., a certain skill, work experience, etc.)

Hidden: Known to you, but unknown to others (e.g., an insecurity, unrevealed feeling, etc.)

Unknown: Neither known to you or others (e.g., a bias that you have yet to discover, a fear that you haven’t uncovered, a capability that you never had reason to know you possessed)

Blind: Known to others, but not known to you. These are blind spots.

There are many potential blind spots, but I find these four are particularly pervasive and costly. Each is based on a specific assumption. Are you falling prey to any of these?

1. Assuming People Know the Goals

Research suggests that only 15% of people can actually name their leaders’ most important goals. But, many leaders assume everyone knows what’s most important.

I once worked with a client who swore all of his employees knew the top goal and challenged me to prove him wrong. The next day I presented a list of 23 different goals that his employees said were most important. All 23 stemmed from the leader. Although the leader saw himself as the goal-oriented, visionary-type, they felt he hadn’t met an idea that he didn’t like. Consider these questions:

  • What are the 1-3 most important goals for your team or organization?
  • Do your people know the goals?
  • How do you know they know them?

2. Assuming People Know What They Should Do

Clarifying and communicating a goal is critical, but insufficient. Employees also need to understand how their work connects to the stated goals. Assuming people understand the connection, or that a connection exists at all, is another leadership blind spot.

When you assume people know what to do, you may walk out of your meetings asking each other questions like, “That sounds like a great idea, but what can we do to impact that goal?” In these instances, people don’t feel empowered; they feel abandoned. Consider these questions:

  • Do your people know what they can do to accomplish the goals?
  • Do they understand how their daily work drives goal accomplishment?

3. Assuming You Know How to Best Do Your Employees’ Jobs:

Sometimes a leader assumes that he or she knows best how to accomplish the goal. The leader both tells the people the goal and how to do it. Unlike the abandonment issue above, these leaders are micromanaging. The leader assumes he is being helpful, but the people simply believe that they are trusted. Of course, this is a bad situation, but it’s even worse if the leader doesn’t really know how best to do the task.

  • Do you ask your people how they might choose to go about accomplishing the goals?
  • Are you too directive?
  • Could you be violating the concept that involvement breeds commitment.

4. Assuming You Know What Your People Find Motivating

Different things motivate people. What one might consider a reward, another thinks is far from positive recognition. Some leaders assume that if they personally find something motivating that their people will feel the same.

Be mindful that a financial reward isn’t too motivating if the employees simply want a few extra hours of free time. Most of your folks already have enough t-shirts and coffee mugs. Moreover, a pat on the back or a hand written note is sometimes reward enough. If you really want to know what motivates your people, don’t assume, ask.

  • How effective have your last reward/incentive programs been?
  • Do you know what truly motivates your people?
  • When was the last time you asked them?