Inspiration in morning ritual?

Have you ever noticed how many people say that they have had their best ideas in the shower or some other morning ritual? Interestingly, I find that to be the case for myself as well but it just seems like such an odd place for inspiration. Don’t you think?

So 2012 comes to a close with a thought question…

When and/or where do you have your best ideas or inspirations? 

…and yes, comments are appreciated. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

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What’s your dream job?

Today I’m feelin a little feisty and decided to share one of my “trade secrets”, so here we go…

Over the last fifteen years or so I’ve had the privilege to have interviewed literally thousands of people in different roles. A stock question that I ask every time goes something like this;

“You find a genie in a bottle and the genie grants you one wish, to pick your dream job. What would it be and why?”

Well of course it is a trick question, right? It is, but it isn’t and if you are an HR person raising your eyebrow now just hear me out. It really is a thought process question, a behavioral question and it’s meant to gauge a couple of things.

  1. Quick Thinking – Uh Oh! Is it a trick question? Isn’t it? How should I respond, is he looking for a ‘real’ answer.
  2. Creativity – Are you original? Or just going with the crowd?
  3. Courageous – You will to take a risk with a real answer, make yourself vulnerable in an awkward situation?

What is your DREAM job??? No surprise, most people try answering with what they think I want to hear; “Uhmm, to be a regional manager at a stable company, like yourself”, “To be managing a business”, “To be working for a stable company”, “Umm, well, I really wanted to be a musician, but that’s not reality”….Garbage!! Who really dreams of being a manager at someone else’s business? It also demonstrates the ability to listen, a dream job may not be based in a current “reality” so use some imagination.

So what would be my dream job? That’s easy……”Give me warp speed Scotty!”

How friendly are you?

Have you ever met someone who seems to just instinctively know how to push your buttons? Ever get short with a family member and not realize it until it was too late? Ever avoid clients, coworkers or friends because of anxiety of not knowing what to say?

Friendliness is a skill like any other skill set. Some people have more natural gifts that develop it but anyone can learn or get better at being confidently friendly. Like most behaviors, the skill of being friendly is driven by human emotion and it important to understand a few mental prerequisites to truly improve your fundamental friendliness.

  1. Self-awareness of your emotions, both good and bad really. What emotions are at the forefront when you are making the effort to not be friendly?
  2. Knowing what drives your emotions. Science and medicine continue to prove how basics like diet, rest and exercise impact human emotion.
  3. Cultivate basic habits that induce friendly behavior. Why do you think shaking hands is such an accepted practice? Or practice smiling more often.

Does this mean that you must act like a circus clown all the time or can never have a bad mood? Of course not, it simply means that no matter what your current level of the skill at being friendly, there is room for improvement. The power of friendliness cannot be overstated and there is a lot of truth in the old saying; “You can attract a lot more with honey than you can with vinegar”….lemon bars work real well too.

Here is Jeffrey Gitomer speaking on the power of friendliness

Why be an early riser?

People usually look at me like I am nuts when I tell them that I am up by 4:00am almost every morning followed by a slew of reasons to stay up late instead or the need for ‘beauty rest’, etc. The fact is that I typically do not short change myself on sleep and get 6 to 7 hours most nights. Working 55 to 65 hours a week, regular exercise and family demands make proper rest a must. Pushing your body further after a full 10-12(or more) hour day is like driving your car on fumes after the tank has hit empty; You will probably go a bit further, but everything will quickly come to a sudden stop…usually in the middle of an intersection! Plus you are doing damage to the machinery in the process.

Besides being fully rested and the batteries recharged, here are some other specific reasons why the early morning can be more productive than late nights:

  1. It’s quiet; The rest of the world is still asleep and there is little background noise which makes concentration easier.
  2. Your mind is clear; You don’t have all of the days activities and conversations swirling around in your mind.
  3. Less distraction; No phone calls, new emails or text messages coming at you. You also tend to leave the TV off if the rest of the family is still alseep.
  4. An empty gym; If you go to a gym and it’s open that early, it’s great! No crowds plus your muscles respond better to morning exercise.

Here is a good article from BNET about maximizing the early morning;

What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast

Do you have “Yes Mentality”?

A respected business mentor of mine once said, “You will always have people who tell you what can’t be done, what shouldn’t be done…that no one does here, etc. People will tell you that no one sells well here because, no one succeeds here and many other reasons why something doesn’t work. If you buy into that mentality, it will be absolutely true. If you want to succeed, don’t believe any of those myths….just work your butt off and prove them wrong.”

Almost 15 years later, I still hear people everyday telling me what cannot be done….The difference is that now, before their sentence is even complete, I’m already thinking of how it can be done.

Do you use “Yes Mentality”? Or do you follow the herd…..

Oh and that mentor? He did alright for himself….He retired at age 49, well “retired”…..

What is your management style?

Several people have recently asked me what I consider to be the best management style. My answer is always the same, a flexible one. Naturally a management style should have some foundation to add  stability and credibility, but much of that emerges from character and the competency of skills. Managers can easily end up ineffective even if they stick to one style of management and in today’s challenging business world, sticking to a single style is probably no longer an option.

The best managers seem to know how to move seemingly effortlessly between the four classic management styles and have learned when, how and how much to shift gears. Here are the four classic management styles and some “Do’s” & “Don’ts” for each;

1.Leading from the front

Teams will need to be reminded of the bigger picture, inspiration and a shared vision that drives them to work together to excel as a whole. Managers that lead from the front well know how to rally the team around them, to create that shared passion. The challenge with this style is that a manager can get caught up in their own autobiography, become a bit of a control freak and the team loses its autonomy and ability to push back. Managing from the front means that you must take the responsibility for the teams mistakes and give the credit away when they succeed. Don’t get yourself mesmerized by your own business card caesar.

2. Setting the example

An effective manager knows when it’s time to roll up the sleeves and get into the mix with the team. Setting the example builds credibility with the team, letting them know that you are not above getting your hands dirty plus you know what you are doing. The challenge is that managers that live in this style end up not making their team better in the long run. They spend more time doing people’s jobs because, “it’s easier if I just do it myself”. Managers that stay in this style too long get frustrated because they believe they have no time to do their own job and the cycle continues. Know when to jump in but for the sake of the entire team, know when to push yourself back out.

3. “Hands On” style

The “hands on” manager will not be right in the middle of things, but just on the perimeter. It’s like being the coach of a sports team where you use the S.O.S. model (Show, Observe, Shape) in some fashion. A good hands on manager knows the difference between teaching, training, coaching and knows how to tailor employee developement for each level of employee. The benefit of this style is in a well-trained team that knows your system. It can also create huge loyalty and credibility from the employees for your personal involvement in their career development. The down side is that at higher management levels with many employees or over large geography, it simply isn’t possible to coach everyone yourself. Too much hands on can also be seen as “micromanagement” by some or take authority/credibility away from the managers who report to you. Success in this style lies in effectively “training the trainers”, that is the leaders on your team then support/reinforce their efforts with the rest of the employees. Give those leaders some room to execute and observe them from a greater distance. Want to know if your plan is making it all the way to the newest employee? Try to have a career progress conversation with everyone on your team, every 30-60 days depending on the size of your team.

4. “Hands Off” style

There is an old saying, “hire great people then get out of their way and let them do their job”. There is certainly some wisdom to that saying in the information by the minute age with seemingly endless conference calls, hundreds of emails per day and reports about reports. Want to know how good your team is? How well do they execute when you are gone for a few days for that meeting? Can you take a couple of days off without the place burning down? Nothing says that you don’t trust your team more than looking over their shoulders constantly. So step back and let your people do their jobs! The danger in living in this style is becoming disconnected from your team and from your business. People don’t know you when you stay at a distance, you become unapproachable. Your direct reports lose sight of your expectations and any team vision. Often there is temptation for some to take chances that are reckless or against the mission and values of the organization. There will always be those that cannot resist that temptation because they know the boss is not looking. Then you are left with the responsibility of explaining to your organization how you had no idea what was happening within your own team.

All four styles have their merits and weakness…Want to be an effective manager? Learn to flex them all.

Can you focus on small steps towards self-mastery for 2011?

Below is a good article from Monster.com that focuses on what I call the “inner circle” elements of professional mastery. Most of us have at one time or another engaged in one or more of these activities and that’s ok. One of the key behaviors in the article is learning to not beat yourself up for mistakes, but to learn from them and move on.

While these activities will probably not disappear from the work place any time soon, you can train yourself to resist the temptation to get pulled into them. Start small with one or two of the habits you engage in most, create reminders both mentally and physically(like pictures, music, quotes, notes to yourself, etc.) that help you break the pattern when you begin to slip. Have something to refocus on, often the antithesis of the counterproductive behavior is best. In other words, if you begin to complain, stop and think about things at work to be grateful for and talk about that. Be sure to have some kind of anchor (like ringing the bell in the Pavlov’s Dog experiment) to attach to the new focus. The power of conditioning is very real and we attach both positive and negative associations to objects and people on a subconscious level.  You want more positive anchors at work than negative. 

Be introspective at the end of the day without playing the blame game. How did you do today? Did you avoid the counterproductive habits or even better, replace them with productive ones? What can you do differently tomorrow? Feel good about the progress you make and continue to redirect the your frustrations to productive habits. 

Then you must practice, practice, practice! It takes 30-45 days of daily repetition to retrain a habit and that’s when you want to make it work.

I suggest, from experience, that learning to minimize these habits is one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself professionally and personally. It will begin to pull the other circles of professional mastery in to you like gravity, like a magnet.

Bring your best in 2011!

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Are you looking ahead to the new year?

As we step into the last quarter of 2010 and the holidays once again approach, it can be useful to take inventory of the thoughts and lessons learned throughout the year. It’s not so much a matter of dwelling on the past as it is on reflection, introspection, and appreciation of some measure of wisdom to carry forward.

Perhaps your summary of 2010 echos the comments shared by professionals all over the country:

“2010 was a year of recovery”
“It was a year to refocus and rebalance”
“Adversity seemed to be the neighbor on every side”
“2010 was a year of survival”

Perhaps 2010 has been a year of opportunity and you were positioned to prosper in what many perceive as uncertain and unprecedented economic times. Either way, there are reasons for gratitude….family, friends, colleagues, health and the experiences to prepare you for the next year.

I suggest that if 2010 was the year of survival, for many, 2011 will be the year of the Phoenix. The new year will be a chance to rise from the ashes for those who have paid the price towards personal and professional mastery. Will you be the Phoenix rising?

“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.”
-Henry David Thoreau

How Do You Refocus??

Doesn’t it seem like there are more demands on you as a person and a professional than ever? Do you find yourself carrying the demands of two or three positions at work? Is there added family drama, relatives unemployed or overall stress of current economic conditions? Then there is the added demands to the new age of social life….keeping your Facebook page current, updating your blogs, your emails, the phone calls to friends that you haven’t returned in three weeks, etc. Do you forego your personal and professional health as a result? Cut the sleep short, eat what’s convenient, skip any time to exercise or recharge the batteries? How effective are you when you do?

Do you behave like a professional?

Setting aside cultural differences for a minute, there are some basic behaviors that are considered to be just good professional manners if you are doing business in the United States. It’s interesting that those same behaviors have come up over and over  in studies on customer loyalty, service and believe it or not employee engagement with and loyalty to their leadership.

It seems pretty basic, people like to do business with people who are friendly, flexible and easy to engage. Think about your favorite places you do business with today, your favorite restaurant, your cleaners, maybe the gym you haven’t been going to because you are procrastinating? Don’t you like to work for people who show those same qualities? Wouldn’t you love it if everyone on your team displayed the following all the time;

Smiling- Science has shown it takes more energy/muscles to frown than just smile.

Shaking Hands -Sorry germophobs but this is considered a professional courtesy and sign of respect in the U.S.

Using a person’s name – First or last depends on the relationship(a customer would always be by last name)

Eye Contact – and body language show you are paying attention, show engagement and subtle confidence.

Attentive Listening– to understand the other person, not hearing to just respond.

Positive Attitude – Showing sincere empathy, being solutions oriented doesn’t have to result in being pulled into a drama.

Enthusiasm – Having a ‘relaxed hustle’, fun. People like to be around people with energy.

And yes, it can be easier said than done to commit these behaviors to your professional character 100% of the time. The question is, how many of these do you display today, right now? How often? How much more effective as a professional could you be by adding just one into your own style? Professional mastery doesn’t mean you must change who you are, but simply create some momentum, some gravity, some professional evolution. Could it hurt to try just one?