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Success vs. Significance

8 Sep

Ask most people what they are striving for and you hear things that relate to having a successful life.  How people define success, though, may be colored by what I call, “celebrity success” or what people think success is, as it’s defined by material possessions, often associated with celebrities.

I just received my new issue of SUCCESS magazine and Darren Hardy, the editor, presented this topic.  He discusses the difference between success and significance.  He defines a successful person as someone who has achieved five pillars of excellence:

  1. Business
  2. Well-being
  3. Relationships
  4. Wealth
  5. Contribution  

He defines significance as the positive and lasting impact on people, be they friends, family, neighbors, countrymen or even humankind.  Interestingly, a person can be successful and not significant, but they cannot be significant without being successful.  I find this fascinating!

I’ve known quite a few people who have had success complete with great lifestyles: beautiful homes, fancy cars, incredible trips, the latest electronics, etc.  In some cases, the success the world sees doesn’t always reflect what’s happening behind the beautiful front doors.  The lasting contributions, the reaching out and helping others, the relationships with people versus business haven’t been a priority.  When there’s an emphasis on “getting” and less on “giving” the success isn’t sustainable.

The lesson I took from the article is one that has me asking, What am I doing that provides lasting impact on others?”  I choose my work on the value it adds for my clients, not allowing the potential fee be the driving factor.  I put energy into the relationships in my life (family, friends, colleagues, and clients) and that pillar contributes to my success in the other four pillars.  I work on answering that question every day.

What does success mean to you? How does significance play a role in your life?  Are you putting emphasis on “getting” or “giving”?  Success alone is hollow.  Now may be a time to re-evaluate your definitions and pursue significance.  See what happens!

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Let Your Superstar Emerge

19 Jul

Our professional growth is like a blob of clay that forms over the course of our life.  Like all masterpieces, the clay takes on different forms.  The difference, of course, is that the sculptor may be many people and, ultimately, we are the sculptor who determines what the final product looks like.  Where are you in the development of your masterpiece?   Is a superstar close to emerging or is your clay not much different than when it was first forming?

I’ve dedicated my life to being a learning professional and along the way I’ve acquired the passion for being a professional learner.  Each day offers a different twist on what I’ve learned or how I choose to apply it.  I’d like to think that my clay has the basics and now the refining and minute details are creating a shape that’s moving toward that masterpiece, at least for me.

How do we mold our clay to create a masterpiece that makes a difference and leaves a legacy?  There are a number of tools and situations that help us along the way:

  • Identifying the values that drive us and influence us.  Early in my career I took a values assessment and a key value in my life (then and now) was freedom.  I have refined this piece of clay in how I’ve approached work, knowing the type of organization and leaders I need to work for/with and what I need in order to grow.  When there has been opportunity to have freedom in my work, I have made the largest gains in my development and for the organization’s success.  Knowing what is fundamental to us is an essential first step.
  • Creating a circle of influence.   When you know the values that are important to you, you attract people who help expand your boundaries.  Think about the discussions you’ve had that challenged pre-conceived ideas – this is helping you refine who you are.  Surrounding ourselves with people and opportunities that help us grow compounds our success.
  • Taking action.  It’s great to have self-awareness and an inspiring group of people to mentor and guide us and it’s quite another thing to do something that helps us to be better people.  Learning and applying what we learn go hand-in-hand.  Unless we “just do it” as Nike implores us, our potential is just that, potential.  It doesn’t have to be grand action – that’s what stops a lot of people from starting – it just has to be action.  Make a plan and then commit to doing one thing to advance on the plan.  Then do the next thing.  Then the next…
  • Getting feedback.  The world gives us checks and balances and feedback is one of the checks.  Ask others for feedback on what’s going well and then ask for feedback on what you could do differently.  Keep doing what’s working and make adjustments as needed.  Involve your circle of influence – they want what’s best for you.  Be generous in how you return feedback and receptive in how you accept it.

Where are you in your emerging masterpiece?  Your superstar is there and with a little refinement, you’re on your way.  What’s one action you can take right now that will refine your masterpiece?

#performance #learning  #growth

A Communication Slap in the Face

12 Jul

Have you ever had the same message hit you from a few different directions and not notice until it almost stands up in your face and slaps you, a la Cher in Moonstruck?  I’ve even wanted to say to myself, “What’s the matter with you?!”  I’ve recently experienced this and thought I’d share my insights.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working with different groups on their communication.  We’ve discussed the different types of communicators, the best ways to meet other’s needs with our communication, the barriers of our own communication style, and how to be more effective in our communication.  At the same time, I’ve experienced different people approaching me and have dealt with the challenges of communication that isn’t getting me the results I desire.

Today, I experienced, once again, someone reinforcing the best ways to communicate with others (similar to the same messages I’ve been delivering to the groups I’ve been working with) in a session I attended for best business practices.  Hmmmmm!  My wake-up call has occurred.

The very simple lessons that have metaphorically slapped me are a great reminder to what communication is all about:

  • Pay attention to what is being said – both verbally and in action
  • Respect other’s point of view – even when there’s no agreement
  • Provide acknowledgment that  the message has been heard– with words and body language
  • Clarify the action that needs to be taken – define who’s doing what
  • Show appreciation for their contribution – a simple “thank you” goes a long way

Moving forward, my promise to myself is to hear the message sooner and make sure I’m practicing good communication in every interaction.  What messages are calling out to you?  What can you do to make sure each person you interact with feels heard?  Thanks for listening!

Are You a Transcending Leader?

28 Jun

Recently, I attended a funeral of a young woman and the word that kept coming to mind as people remembered her was, transcend.  When you look at the definition of transcend, you see:

verb (used with object):

1.  to rise above or go beyond; overpass; exceed: to transcend the limits of thought.

2.  to outdo or exceed in excellence, elevation, extent, degree, etc.; surpass; excel.

She had put her illness aside and demonstrated what it meant to go beyond a diagnosis or the limitations of threatening, life-shortening cancerous cells where there was no cure.  As a teenager, she showed wisdom, resilience, and spirit that defined the meaning of transcending limits.  She was a beautiful example of the potential each person has, even when faced with the most horrific of circumstances.

As a leader, you will have to deal with a vast spectrum of circumstances, some that may be devastating.  The ability to transcend situations is essential to strong leadership.  What skills and abilities will help you lead others through trying times?  Let’s look at a few:

  1. Assess situations – identify the problem and the players involved objectively.  In order to create solutions, you need to know what has happened, who’s involved, the stakes, what needs to happen in the short and long terms, and how much time is required of you and others.
  2. Clear your thoughts – put aside judgment, demonstrate openness to all ideas, and refrain from putting limits on yourself and others.  Create an open environment where people can share freely about the circumstances and co-create solutions that go beyond the obvious.
  3. Practice resilience – adapting and bouncing-back from set-backs is fundamental to excellence.  Model an attitude of positivity balanced with realism.  Communicate that you believe in a good outcome and anchor your belief with realistic objectives and actionable plans.

Go beyond the obvious in all situations and be the leader who helps your team to bust their limitations.  Ask yourself what you can do today to help someone on your team reach their potential. Can you help them assess situations more clearly?  Do you need to put judgment aside? What does your attitude communicate?  Transcend the limits to elevate your team to the next level.

5 Steps to Amazing Relationships

30 May

When you look at both your personal life and your professional life, what is most important?

Did you say your relationships?  The relationships in life are what inspire, guide, support, console, and invigorate us.  So that we don’t take any relationship for granted, there needs to be a relationship mindfulness to what we do each day.

Every day, there is an opportunity to make a difference for each person in your life.  Whether it’s an opportunity to help your child feel how special they are in the world or giving your employees a glimpse of the greatness that is within them, the relationship with each is at the heart of making a difference.

There are so many ways for us to connect and it’s easy to mistake our connections for a relationship.  The number of friends I have on Facebook doesn’t mean I have that many relationships, not in the truest form.  Building professional relationships may start with a social media connection and what I do after I make the connection determines whether there’s any relationship growth.  Building relationships from our connections comes down to five steps:

1.      Reach out.  Relationships don’t just happen, you need to reach out and get to know what’s important to that person, know what’s going on, know how you can help others.  People don’t walk around wearing a sign that gives you all of the answers.  You need to ask the right questions and read the signs that let you know what they are about.  Reach out and meet people where they are.

2.      Be real.  There’s a lot written about authenticity today and not a lot that’s really understood.  Be who you are, express your emotions and ideas, avoid trying to impress others, and truly care about others.  Putting the wants and needs of others first will help you keep yourself in check.  This will help you show your real self.

3.      Listen.  It sounds so easy and it can be so hard to do.  Listen for the emotion of others, their fears, their desires, their frustrations, and their excitement.  Listening for the story behind their words helps to build on that connection.  Follow the 80/20 rule and listen 80% of the time.  Use your 20% talk time to ask questions and get really good at asking questions that encourages others to share their story.  Listening validates others and it’s one of the greatest gifts you can give.

4.      Add value.  In every interaction, look for ways to be a resource.  When you’re paying attention to all that’s going on, asking questions and listening for what’s important, you’ll be able to figure out how you can add value.  Is it an article that you can send?  Do you know someone you can connect them to?  Is there an opportunity you can make happen?  When you help others, you bring value to the relationship.

5.      Keep your promises.  Trust is fundamental in relationships.  Do what you say you will do to build and keep trust.  Your mindfulness builds the bank of trust.  You may have many deposits and a good size bank account and not keeping a promise can wipe out everything.  If you aren’t able to do something you promised, communicate it immediately and find an alternate solution.  Stay away from making big promises to incent people.  Keep things realistic and follow-through on your promises.  Keeping your promises is fundamental to building and sustaining trust.

Our relationships, both personal and professional, are the foundation for our success and our happiness.  People who are mindful in their relationships and do the things that are important to others, not only have success, they create a life others envy.  Be the envy of others – reach out and make a difference for the people in your life.

Influence and Personal Branding

17 May

What are you doing to be memorable?  If you’re not that memorable, what does that say about your brand?  Your brand is your calling card to success and it affects your ability to influence others.  Are you doing what you want to do as a leader?  Let’s look at simple steps to create a personal brand that gets results.

Successfully working with others requires you to connect quickly.  Your presence (how you come across) and what you say helps you sell an idea, get agreement to move forward on a project, build team support, or change directions on an initiative.  Having a branding strategy is key to successful influencing.  Let’s look at four key components to put your strategy together:

1.       Make a great first impression. 

  • Your presence includes how you put yourself together, the degree of confidence that comes through, and what you say.  I’m not saying you have to wear designer duds and spend a fortune on your appearance, I am saying you need to come across polished and put together.
  • A person who stands tall, has a solid handshake and looks people in the eyes is a confident person.  Confidence equals credibility.  When I say confidence, I don’t mean cockiness – know the difference.
  • Communicate what you do and what you have to offer that matters to the other person.  Your brand is how you help others.  Make sure you have a clear statement that lets people know what you are about.  When people know this, you are able to build your influence.

2.       Be a partner.

  • Know what’s important to others and look for ways that you can help them.  Inform yourself on their hot buttons and make connections for them.
  • Put yourself in their shoes to figure out where they need help.

3.       Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

  • Learn how people want you to communicate with them.  Do they like to get down to business and take care of things quickly or do they want to spend time getting to know you and build a partnership?  Do they want to brainstorm ideas and think of creative approaches to problems or do they need to have all the details to make sure they have all bases covered? You don’t have to be all things to everyone.  Make it easy on yourself and communicate how people want you to communicate.
  • Giving and receiving feedback is a huge part of communication.  Be open and receptive to what people say and leave the defensiveness behind.  When you give feedback, connect what they’ve done with an impact and suggestions from both of you.

4.       Look to the future.

  • Anticipate changes and what that means to your relationship.  Be prepared so you can offer insights and suggestions.
  • Identify ways to enhance your partnership.  When you give more than you receive, your relationships grow.

Practicing these four steps will create and sustain a personal brand that others will respect.  Confidence, partnership, communication, and anticipation are foundations to a memorable brand.  Look at what your brand is saying and how you can enhance your ability to influence with a simple branding strategy.