A bird does not sing because it has an answer.  It sings because it has a song.

01 December 2009

Holiday Strategies for Keeping Your Balance

If you are striving for a balance between faith, family and career, there’s a good chance the holiday season is your most challenging time. Although intended to be about faith and family, the holidays too often become a jumble of events, tasks and chores that leave us drained of money and energy. If this sounds familiar, and you’d like this year to be different, here are some strategies to try.

Set an intention. Before you start making your plans, decide what you’d like to do, feel, and experience. Do you want to stay home, or travel? Whom do you want to be sure to see or visit? What are your “must dos” — those events or activities that make you think, “it just wouldn’t be the holidays without that?” Do you love a busy calendar, or would you prefer to spend a more quiet time with just a few loved ones? Be specific. The more clear you are about what you want, the less likely you will be to let other people’s priorities drive your planning.

Keep good company. You should never have to do a holiday-related task alone unless you really want to. Shop with a friend, cook with your kids, decorate with your spouse or your family. If a seasonal task feels like a chore, don’t do it. You won’t miss the chore, but by doing it, you might be missing something a lot better.

Be realistic. Chances are there will be far more opportunities than your calendar or your pocketbook can handle. Choose only those that fit with your intentions. Be sure to consider your regular life obligations. Your priorities don’t need to change just because your halls have been decked with boughs of holly, and you certainly won’t find yourself with tons of extra time or cash. Let your intention for the season drive what you do, and also what you don’t do.

Say no! If an invitation doesn’t match your intentions, politely decline. Everyone else is just as overbooked as you are, and they will forgive you for missing their parties. We tend to worry a lot about what we aren’t doing, and that distracts us from the joy of what we are doing. Make choices on purpose and be at peace with them. Save your apologies for actual mistakes.

Understand “balance.” Balance does not mean spending exactly one third of every day on each of your three top priorities. It means being true to what’s really important to you and doing the best you can. Schedule the important things first—your family time, your “me” time, and your fun time. Then worry about all that other stuff.

The holiday season gets more hype than a mega-blockbuster summer movie, and it’s easy to get carried away with hopes, expectations and commitments. Take time to connect to the reasons you have to be thankful and celebrate, then create your experience in that light. Happy Holidays!

04 November 2009

Reasons and Excuses

As I have worked through my day, reading and listening to clients, colleagues and others tell me their reasons why various things have not been accomplished over the past week, month, or year, I have arrived at a state of profound gratitude.

As it happens, I have not made an entry in my blog in almost two months. There is no good reason for this; I simply have not done it. I am neither proud nor ashamed of this fact. I have two months of incontrovertible evidence that writing in my blog has not been my highest priority, and that's that.

Some of those who have shared their stories with me have been considerably less lucky. A few have been extremely ill or had family members who were ill. One has wrecked her car. Another, due to circumstances genuinely outside his control, had to file for bankruptcy for his business in order to protect his personal assets and his clients' interests. While these friends have my sympathy, their stories have also made me deeply grateful to have no good reason for anything I have not achieved in the last two months!

Someone once said, "if everyone put their troubles in a great big pile for all to see, each of us would gladly grab back our own."

One of the challenges of coaching is to understand when a client's reason is a reason, and when it's an excuse. Sometimes it doesn't matter -- while a situation may not be your fault, it is nevertheless your problem and must be resolved in any case. In almost every case, there is a lesson that can be learned. Character traits like patience, determination, honesty, resolve and humility offer themselves for adoption when we fail to achieve a goal or complete a task.

Take out an undone thing in your life and set it on the table for examination today. Ask yourself why it's not done -- not in a judgmental way, but with an attitude of genuine curiosity. What lesson lies in the un-doneness of this item? What would need to change in order for you to check it off your list? So what if you do, and so what if you don't? How long has it been languishing, and how much longer do you think it might have to wait? Is there something about this task that you are avoiding or dreading? Is there anything about the circumstances of the task that you are pretending not to know? What is this situation trying to tell you about yourself?

I'd love to hear what you learn!

09 September 2009

Do the Voices in Your Head Bother You?

When I first got into the business coaching business, I heard a lot of fellow coaches warn me about "self-limiting beliefs" and "negative self-talk." And I smiled and nodded a lot, thinking I understood what these guys were saying.

Then I heard, from a variety of directions, about the importance of keeping a positive attitude about your business and your opportunities. Things like economic downturns and seasonality, I was told, were part of that body of self-limiting beliefs, and I must refuse to let those things provide excuses for underperforming. Recession, I was told, was all in people's heads. And again, I smiled and nodded a lot, and truly thought I understood.

And then the news was on about the "bubble burst" of the real estate market, and the various other factors that added up to a really pretty serious economic situation that was rocking the country and in turn, the world. This was no ordinary recession, even by alarmist media standards. This was serious. And even those people I admired most, who were really living that positive attitude and succeeding in their businesses, started to struggle hard to keep it together. Some of them even closed their doors - and nobody was as surprised by this as they themselves were. "I've been in business for 30 years," they would say, "And I've never seen anything like this." Indeed, the only people who seem to find this familiar are those who've been around since the 30s. To their credit, they will tell you to quit your whining, because you're still eating a lot better than they did then.

This, then, is the acid test of self-limiting beliefs and negative self-talk. This current economy may very well be the worst you've seen, or will see, in your lifetime. And here's what I have to say about that.


The only thing that happens if you talk about the horrible economy all the way to the bankruptcy filing is that you have plausible deniability about your own role in it. Honestly, is that going to make you feel better? And is it even true?

Your success or failure is ultimately about you. It's about the choices you make and the attention you pay to the realities of the market and your strategies for finding the opportunities in it. As long as there is anyone left in this world who needs what you offer, there will be a business offering it. So it's up to you to decide whether it's you or your competitor who is left standing at the end of the game. The ones who fail will be the ones who listened to the voices in their heads (and the ones on TV) instead of sizing up the situation and getting down to business.

I've come to a much deeper understanding of what all those people were talking about when I first got started with my coaching practice. It's not simply about being "positive," and it's certainly not about creating a set of happy beliefs that fly in the face of reality. It's about tuning in to the reasons why you do what you do, and finding the real passion that makes it worth whatever you have to endure to do it. Tune in, every day, to your personal vision and mission as well as the vision and mission of your business. Get excited about how your work changes the world for the better. And make up your mind, right now, that your customers have a deep and genuine need for your product or service that you owe it to them to meet.

There's nothing lightweight about this "positive self-talk" stuff. This is about true love and true joy -- and that is serious business.

31 August 2009

No Extra Charge

I get periodic e-mails from Michael Port, the author of "The Think Big Manifesto." He ends each e-mail with a cute postscript: "P.S. I don't charge for typos, they're just my gift to you :) " This got me thinking this morning about how attitude impacts everything we do, large and small.

This postscript accomplishes three things:

First, it acknowledges, and even celebrates, the little imperfections that are inevitable in life because we are all human. In so doing, it lets Michael worry less about spelling and more about content, which is a perfectly reasonable approach for a quick e-mail update.

Second, it shuts down the trolls -- the people who feel compelled to pick things apart and send mountains of critiques and corrections. When this happens to me, it tells me the reader was paying more attention to the spelling than the content. And while I myself am a stickler for such things, and find errors terribly distracting in written work, I work hard to strike a balance between appreciating the intent and helping refine quality only when that help is appropriate. Criticizing is a lot easier than creating, which is why there are a lot more complainers than there are creators.

Third, it emphasizes the positive. Michael seeks to be a giver and a sharer of good stuff. He brings the attitude to his work that it is a gift to those who care to receive it. The message is, "everything I create - even the small mistakes - is a unique gift I am giving to the universe." With that approach, he's bound to be inspired by what he's doing, and strive to make it the absolute best it can be. And by focusing on the positive, the rest is seen for what it is: a minor distraction in the periphery of the critical path.

Incidentally, I've never seen a typo in any of those messages. :)

What are you doing today that is a unique, creative gift to the universe? How does your present task, no matter how small, make a positive impact? If you don't feel like you're doing good in the world, what needs to change - the task, or your attitude about it? What specific, concrete thing can you do about it right now?

28 August 2009

What does it mean to "win"?

Political struggles are common in most work environments, and they sometimes seem to get particularly fierce in academia. I'm aware of one such struggle happening right now. It involves the heads of two departments within the same college. One of the department heads is a collaborator who believes resources should be generously shared for the benefit of students. The other is a competitor who believes in departmental "territory" and self-aggrandizement at the expense of others.

Each of the two departments fielded a student team in a national competition over the summer. The collaborator's team had the resources they needed to do well, and shared their ideas and their tools with the competitor's team. In turn, the competitor's team stole parts, broke tools, and actually sabotaged aspects of the collaborator's project. And sadly, it worked -- the competitor's team performed much better in the competition, and brought home prize money, which was secreted away into the competitor's departmental budget instead of being allocated for future team efforts (as was done with the prize money won by the collaborator's team).

But here's the question: who really won? Many of the students on the competitor's team were horrified to learn of the sabotage efforts, and equally horrified to learn that portions of their entry were plagiarized from the other team's work without due credit. The competitor's existing team members are asking to join the collaborator's team, and at the same time fearing the consequences to their degree programs. The competitor is forcing students to work on his team in order to receive necessary credit for graduation, rather than recruiting interested and willing team members. The resources that used to be openly shared are being carefully inventoried and locked up. The culture of the collaborator's department has, by necessity, changed from one of generosity to one of suspicion. Should we wonder why these kinds of shenanigans happen in the workplace when role models at school enable, and even encourage, this kind of behavior?

Climbing to a "win" by stepping on other people's heads may work for a short time, but it's not responsible, sustainable, or even very satisfying. A friend of mine used to say, "the cream rises to the top, but so does the scum." Well, both get skimmed off, too -- and taken to very different destinations.

Is there a competitor in your organization? Are there any collaborators? Who is winning, and what are you losing?

13 August 2009

Smile and Move

Take a look at this fun little video. Some inspiration for your Thursday morning.

Edit: I can't seem to get the "embed video" code from their website to work in my blog post, so here's a link to the page:

04 August 2009

Selling for Geniuses

Masterminds Unleashed:Selling for Geniuses has been released and is now available for sale on my website.

I am so excited to hold the book in my hand after all the months of writing, re-writing, and collaborative editing we all did together to make it happen. Now it's here, and I'm looking for opportunities to share it with businesspeople who can benefit from the great ideas it contains.

If you know of a business networking organization, trade group, or club that needs a guest presenter, please invite their speaker coordinator to contact me. If you refer me to a group and they book me as a speaker, I'll send you a complimentary copy of Selling for Geniuses!

31 July 2009

Language Barriers

Communication challenges seem to be a recurring theme in my life over the past week or so. Curiously, being in Puerto Rico was the least of them.

Puerto Rico has two official languages, Spanish and English. In San Juan, you can be all but guaranteed a fluently bilingual professional to help you in whatever shop, restaurant, or hotel you happen to patronize. We found that to be true probably 80% of the time or better throughout the island as well. When we did encounter someone who claimed not to speak English, they usually meant only that they weren't particularly fluent. Between their better-than-advertised English and my pitiful Spanish, our genuine desire to communicate got us where we needed to go in a remarkably efficient and friendly manner. The only real challenge I had was in learning that Puerto Rico is not the right place to practice your Spanish if you're not fluent. Puerto Ricans expect you to speak the language you know, and if you talk to them in Spanish, they assume it's because you know it. Once I understood what was expected, I had no trouble communicating.

Understanding what's expected is key in communication no matter what the language. People who should have almost perfectly congruent dialects, like for example coworkers in an organization, run into communication problems all the time. "Speaking the same language" is not just about vocabulary and grammar. It's about attitudes, expectations, and assumptions about what particular expressions mean.

Case in point: one of my most frustrating communication experiences last week was with one of the people I was traveling with. He is an American and a fluent, native English speaker, so that wasn't the issue. We were talking about planning. He asserted that he has never seen planning work, and further, that a colleague of his has researched and found no firm evidence that planning has any kind of positive impact on project success. He is a proud procrastinator and a firm believer that things should be allowed to happen "organically" -- that if you put the right people on a project, they will just get it done with no planning required.

Now, it's not that I don't believe him. For him, planning has probably backfired more than it has helped. I know, though, that planning does work -- if it's the right kind of planning. My response, which fell flat because he did not understand what I meant and sent the group's conversation in a different direction, was that planning doesn't work when you plan from front to back. You have to plan from top to bottom.

Planners frequently create plans based solely on time. They have a project and a deadline, and they create milestones to connect the beginning to the end. These milestones may or may not reflect realistic time frames, and may or may not account for other variables such as required man-hours, budgets, unexpected equipment failures or other setbacks. Such plans almost never account for the intangibles in a project, such as the relationships among the people working on it or other characteristics of those people that may have bearing on their capacity to do the work. Perhaps most importantly, plans that are solely time-based seldom include the motivation for doing the project. "To get it done by the deadline" is not an inspiring reason to do the work. It doesn't capture the value of the project or its impact on the larger organization. It doesn't speak to the needs of the customer or the potential for personal satisfaction in accomplishing a team goal. It doesn't even really express the consequences of failure to meet the deadline.

If you want your plan to have an impact on the project, plan from the top down. Start with vision and mission -- the reasons why this project is important and how it fits into the big picture. Get all of the team members together to discuss the benefits of completing the project, and the consequences of failure. Brainstorm the critical goals related to successful completion and the obstacles that may get in the way. Make sure everyone understands their own role in the project, how their role fits, where their personal deadlines fall and how their performance impacts the success of their team mates. Be sure each team member has a clear understanding of what's expected and why, and how to "cry for help" if things are not going according to plan. Get genuine commitment, not just a reluctant head-nod, from each and every team member. Once you've addressed the intangibles and the "what-ifs," then you'll have the information you need to create a rough timeline based on the tasks you need to complete. From there, you can determine a realistic deadline, SMART goals, and a concrete plan of action.

Sure, it's complicated. But the critical first step is to make sure everyone is speaking the same language. When everyone knows what is meant by "plan," and has a shared base of assumptions and expectations about the nature of the project, you're well on your way to successful completion.

18 July 2009

Stopped in my tracks

I've been scrambling since Wednesday. Not really recovered from the previous trip, leaving for the next one tomorrow, spinning the plates of work tasks, laundry, a speaking engagement yesterday, unpacking, re-packing and generally trying to keep my head above the water.

This morning, a quick check of my email stopped me in my tracks.

It seems a friend of my family (actually a distant cousin), of whom I have many fond memories from my childhood, drowned in Lake Erie a few days ago. He was 65. I am profoundly shaken by this, and deeply saddened.

As with most experiences I have had over the last several years of my life, my way of processing the emotions of it seem always to translate into analysis. What's the lesson of this experience? What might I do differently from now on? What could I learn, and what could I teach, from this place of new wisdom (in this case, the phrase "sadder but wiser" surely seems to apply)?

These are the thoughts I have about the loss of my family friend.

First, there's the really obvious one. He was swimming off a small boat, and was not wearing a life jacket. Had he been, he certainly would still be alive today. By the time you know you need your life jacket, it's way too late -- always exercise the greatest caution around boats and water.

Second is the not quite so obvious one. In this particular circumstance, two friends took a boat out on the water, anchored it, and went in for a swim. The anchor failed to hold and the boat got away from them. The friend who survived swam directly for shore. The friend who didn't, swam for the boat -- most likely putting more importance on recovering the errant vessel than on getting directly to safety. Make sure you have your priorities in order, and think before you act - especially when you feel like you don't have time to think.

Third is the subtlest lesson, and maybe the most important of all of them. Tomorrow is promised to no one. I hadn't seen our family friend in years, though I thought of him often. I thought about calling my Dad to get his phone number or his email address, and just never got around to it. I would have loved to see him, talk to him, just shoot the breeze and see what new geeky fun project he was working on this week. But I never did. And now I never can.

Every one of us has someone like that in our lives - and probably several someones. We're probably more likely to catch up with a client or supplier on a consistent basis than with a dear friend. Take a minute today to think about the most important connection you could make, and make it. Don't make excuses about being too busy, and don't wait.

And hey - tell them I said hello.

06 July 2009


Achieving my goal of writing two blog posts a week requires some discipline that has been a challenge to maintain during my travels these past couple of weeks. Tonight as I contemplated possible topics, I thought about the word "exercise." It struck me that several of this word's meanings are relevant to my blogging goal, and might also be relevant to a goal you are currently pursuing.

"Exercise" means action. It can mean physical activity for fitness, or activity done to build a skill (as in a writing or math exercise), or a drill or practice activity (like a military exercise). It can also be a ceremonial action, like commencement exercises, or a way of taking action, like exercising a privilege. We can exercise our bodies, our minds, our rights, and even our religion. Or a troubling thought can exercise us, causing a workout of worrying. We can exercise control, or exercise caution, or exercise the dog with a long morning run.

It's enough to make you wish that reading my blog would burn calories. :)

In order to accomplish any goal, you're going to need to exercise something. Whether you are exercising your judgment, your self-control or your six-pack abs, you need to take action in order to get the results you want. If I want to achieve my goal of making regular blog entries, and get the desired result of a large community of engaged readers following my blog, I'll need to exercise my best creative thinking and language skills on a daily basis. What do you need to exercise in order to achieve your goals?

If you'd like some help designing a results-focused exercise program to achieve your business goals, give me a call!

01 July 2009

Life Lessons from the Movies, episode 1

Legally Blonde was on TV last night. I have seen this film more times than I'd care to admit, and if you haven't, I recommend it. It is not high art, but it is cute and funny and charming, and embeds some valuable lessons in its story.

(I'll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum.)

One of the key themes in this movie is misjudgment. Many of the characters are not what they at first appear to be. The protagonist in particular, a fluffy blonde sorority girl from L.A., turns out to be a caring, thoughtful, keenly intelligent and principled person who changes the lives of several of the other characters. The sidekicks become heroes and the romantic lead gets kicked to the curb. The snobbish prep school ice queen gets sent out for the coffee, and the clumsy comic relief gets credited with giving the star "the greatest pleasure I've ever known."

So what's the life lesson? Misjudgment comes in every flavor, and that goes double in the work place. If you work in an office with more than 50 other people, odds are there's at least one person in each of these categories:
  • One climbing the corporate ladder who doesn't care whose head they step on
  • One accused of that, who in reality is struggling to provide for a family and needs that promotion desperately
  • One who seems shy but in reality just needs someone to reach out to them
  • One who is not shy but who prefers to work alone and avoid work friendships
  • One who gossips about everybody
  • One who hates being in that gossipy conversation but is afraid to stand up to the gossip
  • One who has a fantastic idea that would make the office run better, but whose opinion is never sought
  • One whose opinion is sought constantly but whose ideas are rarely useful
  • One whom everyone pretends to like because of their position, but who isn't very nice
  • One whom nobody likes, who would be a fast friend if given the chance
How would your office environment be different if everyone felt comfortable and safe to be who they really are? How would fully understanding, respecting and trusting all of your coworkers change the way you work? How would the people in your company treat customers differently if they felt fully appreciated and empowered by that respect and trust? How might your business get better bottom-line results if you could consciously create that kind of workplace?

19 June 2009

Judging Books By Their Covers

Here's some news from Harvard Business Review that probably won't surprise you: consumer expectations about products have a greater impact on their buying habits than the products themselves. In other words, if a marketing campaign or a salesperson creates an expectation -- that a product will taste great, be less filling, outperform the "leading brand," or deliver great value -- odds are the consumer will make their purchase decision based on that information.

Now, what may surprise you is this: curiously, they may do this even when their experience doesn't really support that expectation. And even stranger, they may have the experience they expect of their purchase, even when the facts of the experience don't match the expectation.

Since that is a bit of a convoluted statement, here's an illustration, quoted from the article in HBR:

"Recent brain-imaging studies show that when people believe they’re drinking expensive wine, their reward circuitry is more active than when they think they’re drinking cheap wine—even when the wines are identical."

What does this mean to you? It doesn't mean you should sell cheap stuff and charge more for it, but it does mean you should not be shy about setting high expectations for your clients when you have a strong offering. And you should charge appropriately. Don't charge what you're really worth -- nobody can afford that, because you are worth more than you can possibly imagine. But do create an expectation that you provide an experience of superior quality and value, and set a commitment point consistent with that expectation.

Thomas Paine said, "What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly." This HBR research confirms that great truth in empirical terms, in case you ever doubted it. By charging a fairly high (meaning high, but fair) price for quality service, you reinforce the client's expectation that they are getting something of value. As an added bonus, the client is more likely to experience the results you have promised, if for no other reason than that you promised them. In my experience, clients take a more active and cooperative role in the work I do with them if they have paid a premium for the service. The project is almost always a win-win, because both the client and I have made a commitment to their success.

Check out this article in the Harvard Business Review for the full scoop.

Commitment Point

I was composing a blog article this morning in which I needed to use the term "commitment point," and I realized that since Selling for Geniuses hasn't been released yet, most of my readers may not be familiar with that term.

Here's the book excerpt that explains what I mean:

Commitment point is to a service relationship as “price point” is to a product on a store shelf. When we talk about professional services, cost is not the only, or even the most important consideration for many clients. As a business coach, I ask a prospective client to commit not only their dollars, but also their time and personal energy to the process of professional development. The client absolutely must trust me, believe the process will work for them, and be prepared to commit many hours of concentrated time and effort to our work together. The same could be said of a patient’s commitment to work with a doctor to treat his cancer, or a client’s commitment to work through an estate plan with her attorney.

A box of cookies on a store shelf carries a low commitment point. I can throw it into my grocery cart, pay a few dollars, and consume it at my leisure. A cell phone has a slightly higher commitment point. I have to learn how to use a particular phone’s features, pay a higher price, and typically enter into a multi-year contract. Most of the services being provided by readers of this book will likely have a high commitment point, involving potentially thousands of dollars of financial investment as well as significant time and effort on the part of the client. A sales process that will work at the “box of cookies” commitment point, will probably not be sufficient to persuade a client at the “estate plan” or “cancer treatment” commitment point.

And now you'll know what I'm talking about in my next post!

15 June 2009

The following is a "reprint" -- an article I wrote for my November 2007 newsletter. Rather than archive some of these articles on my website as I have done in the past, I'm going to let Blogger do that and take advantage of the opportunity to revisit some ideas my newer readers may not have seen yet. It's also an opportunity for me to rethink those ideas and do a bit of editing. I have about a half-dozen, I'd guess, and I'll post them at intervals over the next few weeks.

* * *

"Sustainability" is a buzzword - one with all kinds of connotations about being "green" and "saving the planet." These ideas get embraced by some folks, and dismissed by others who say "there's no good science behind all this global warming stuff." To me, sustainability means something less fraught with political implications, but rich with implications for other aspects of your business and your life. Sustainability simply describes the capacity of your business to continue doing what it's doing.

An interesting statistic in a recent magazine article notes that Americans generate an incremental five million tons of trash between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. Fortunately for people in the landfill business, this staggering spike in waste generation only lasts a few weeks. And as anyone who's ever breathed a heavy sigh of relief on January 1 can attest, the level of consumption and activity that generates all that extra garbage is NOT sustainable throughout the year.

Excessive consumption is a habit that is just as bad for the checkbook as it is for the planet. Even moreso now than in November 2007, people are paying attention to issues of consumption and waste in the context of "eco-friendliness," but for business owners, this issue shoots straight to the pocketbook. By taking a good hard look at everything you are using, you may be able to find ways to reduce your consumption while boosting your local economy (and by that, I mean the economy in your own office!)

What does your business consume? Where do you get it? How much do you pay for it, and how much of it do you throw away? Could you get a quality alternative for less money? Should you be buying a higher quality alternative, that would cost more, but last longer? What do you know about your suppliers' sustainability? Are you aware of, and do you agree with, their policies and behaviors regarding environmental or economic impact in their communities?

A large corporation might carefully track the usage rates of paper, pens, or staples when it would seem as though such things represented a minuscule fraction of their operating costs. That same corporation could then spend millions of dollars cleaning up the industrial waste it gets caught dumping into a nearby lake. (Just in case you didn't see a connection between environmental and economic impact....)

Small businesses tend to have the opposite problem. They rarely make million-dollar mistakes (other than opportunity costs - but that's another article). They do, however, sometimes waste money on small things. If you buy the "cheap" tool or machine and quickly break it or wear it out, it's likely to be more economical to spend for the good one than buy the cheap one multiple times. If you are getting a bargain price for items online, make sure the total with shipping is really still cheaper than it would be to shop locally. If you are sourcing "cheap" ink cartridges or office equipment, be aware that these items are sometimes "factory refurb" rather than new, and may not perform like a new one would. This does not make them bad choices -- as long as you know what you're getting, how long it is expected to last, and how the price/performance scenario stacks up against comparable items.

Last but not least, be just as aware of what goes out of your office as what goes in. A typical office environment goes through a lot of paper, and that is difficult to avoid. But there's no good reason for that paper to end up in a landfill. Many communities will recycle for free that which they would charge you to haul as trash. Recycling programs also exist for most types of electronics and office equipment - check with your municipal government or one of the national office supply store chains.

Sustainability is about being able to keep doing what you're doing. Take a few minutes every day to work on your business rather than in it, and always be looking for ways to improve.

10 June 2009

What do you say when...?

I often get asked for advice on how to handle situations where someone is trying to anticipate the outcome before they begin a conversation.  Sometimes these are very specific -- person A needs to address issue X with person B, and wants to work through every imaginable turn that conversation may take before they begin.  Other times they are more general -- someone wants to be able to handle a recurring situation better than they currently do.

I find it funny that people seek me out for this kind of advice, because I struggle with the answers to these questions as much as anyone does.  But I have learned a few things that do help when I bring them to the table.

First, know what outcome you want.  A conversation is a meeting, and every effective meeting has an agenda.  Be clear on your goal for any conversation before you start it.

Second, be honest about that agenda, with yourself and with the other parties to the conversation.  Agendas are not nearly as effective when they are hidden.  Wouldn't a lot of conversations be shorter and more satisfying if the other person would just tell you honestly what's on their mind up front?  A corollary to that is to watch out for your assumptions.  Having a goal in mind does not give you permission to dismiss, disrespect, manipulate or railroad the other person into giving you your way.

Third, be open to the other person's agenda and goals for the conversation.  Their needs may not be what you think they are.  If you're not sure, ask.

When you're in a conversation, especially when it gets uncomfortable for any reason, think before you speak.  And specifically, think about whether whatever you're about to say could be phrased as a sincere, open-ended question.  Questions keep doors open.  They demonstrate a desire to understand and learn.  Questions are the mechanism through which adults communicate.  To borrow the classic line from Dr. Stephen Covey, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood."

Questions can also be a way to defuse a conversation that's turning ugly.  Rather than make a strong statement in response to a strong statement, ask a question that gives the other person permission to get the anger, frustration, or other intense emotion out of their system.  Even something like "I don't understand" or "say more about that" tells the other person you are listening.  Of course, if the response is still heated, it may be time to walk away and come back to it after everyone's had a chance to calm down.

It's perfectly OK, if you don't know "what to say when...", to say so!  Nobody has all the answers, and "I'm not sure what to say" is a very human way to keep a conversation going when it might otherwise fall apart.  Give the other person permission to help you achieve your conversational goals by being honest, asking plenty of questions, and listening carefully.

08 June 2009

Thinking Big

Have you read Michael Port's Think Big Manifesto?  I'm about halfway through it, and it has me bursting with ideas.  If you have big dreams, or even little ones that you've been neglecting, I encourage you to hit the bookstore or your local library and pick up a copy.

Here's my take on what I've read so far:
  • Thinking big means just what you think it means.  Never underestimate your ability to change the world.
  • You really can be or do anything you want.  The important thing is to want it.  Choose the thing that you are really, deeply passionate about and pursue it.  Once you have that clarity, nothing can stop you.
  • Don't be shy about telling the world what you are pursuing.  People can't help you if they don't know what you need.  When they do know what you need, you may be pleasantly surprised by how the universe aligns to support you.
  • Thinking big can be exhausting if you're surrounded by other people who are thinking small.  Keep company with other big thinkers.  Make sure the people around you are pulling you up, not dragging you down.
As for me, my next "big thinking" commitment is to write a book.  In order to get there, I know I need to do a lot more writing generally, so my short-term goal is to write at least two blog posts each week from now until the beginning of August, when I want to double that number.  By September, I want to be posting at least once every weekday.  By making this public pronouncement, I'm committing to getting it done and asking you for help.  You can help me by sharing your own "big thinking" ideas, commitments, and questions, as well as offering any feedback you may have on what I write here.  In return, please let me know how I can help you think bigger and achieve your own goals!

Fear, Episode 3: Fear of Change

When people have a life-threatening event, like a heart attack, that has a significant "lifestyle" component as its cause, their doctors will tell them they will die if they don't change their habits.  Changes to diet, exercise, destructive habits like smoking, or reducing excessive stress are the prescription for preventing the next occurrence.

The number of people who actually make the prescribed changes, when the directive is literally, "change or die," may surprise you.  It works out to about 10%.  The other 90%, by their behavior, indicate that the prospect of dying is not as scary as the prospect of change.  To be fair, death is certain whereas change is uncertain, but this hardly seems like a compelling case in death's favor.

Fear of change is related to some other fears.  Of course, the fears in the previous two episodes - fear of failure (what if I change something and it doesn't help/get better/improve my results?) and fear of the unknown (I don't know what it will look like if I change it) figure large in the equation.  There's some fear of inadequacy (If I have to change it must be because I'm a bad person now), and some fear of leaving your comfort zone (I like it here where it's safe!) as well.

But let's think a minute about change.  Things around you, and inside you, change all the time.  You probably don't eat the exact same food every day, right?  You get a new (or at least a different) car from time to time.  You buy new clothes.  You probably complain if your work gets too predictable, and if you respond to "how are you?" with "same old, same old," you say it with a long-suffering sigh.  If you're like most people, you love to have something new in your life -- new shoes, the new NYT bestseller (it's even called a "novel"!), the latest techie gizmo.  We don't go into the store full of fear of new things.  So why do other kinds of change bother us so much?

The key to embracing change is to buy a new attitude about it.  Notice I said "buy new," not "change."  Of course, a new attitude won't cost you a penny, but using this "buy new" metaphor could make the difference in whether change is something you look forward to, or something you dread.  Align your attitude about change to match your attitude about having something new that you want.  Want good health?  A promotion? A new job or career?  To go back to school?  All those things are new things you want.  So go shopping for them!  You'll need to shop in a couple of different "stores" to get everything you need:
  • Go to the grocery store to pick up some great-tasting healthy foods.  I suggest you start in the fresh produce section, with your favorite fruits, veggies and juices.
  • Shop in your closet for clothes that dress you for success.  If you're looking for a promotion or a new job, make sure you look like a million bucks every day.  And if you need a little refresh, hit the mall with a clear idea of what you need and a sensible budget.
  • Shop at the library or the bookstore for guides to healthy living, resume writing, applying to the best colleges, or any other skill set or information you need to succeed.
  • Shop in your network of friends, family and colleagues for help and support in achieving your goals.  Look for people who've done what you want to do, so they can mentor and coach you.
  • Most important, shop in your head and your heart for the motivation and passion you need to get what you want.  You may have to paw through the racks of outdated ideas and self-defeating beliefs to find the good stuff, but keep looking until you find your confidence, drive, and excitement.  You know they're there, just like that perfect shirt you found on sale last fall.
Change isn't all fun and games, just like shopping for jeans or a bathing suit is a love/hate exercise sometimes.  But by focusing on the reasons why you want, need, and deserve better results in your life, you'll get past the stuff you don't need and be able to fill your shopping basket with the goods that will get you there.

If you need a "personal shopper" to help clarify your goals and your best course of action, give me a call!

23 April 2009

Fear, Episode 2: Fear of the Unknown

It's a funny thing about "worst-case scenarios": when we force ourselves to define them in concrete terms, they lose a lot of their power over us.

From an evolutionary survival standpoint, fear of the unknown is not necessarily a bad thing.  If the choices are, "assume this unfamiliar plant is poisonous" or "assume this unfamiliar plant is not poisonous," the first choice is definitely the less risky one.  This becomes a problem, though, when we generalize "this unfamiliar plant may be poisonous" to "all unfamiliar plants are certainly poisonous, and may be spraying noxious fumes directly into my nose at this very moment!"  This example may sound silly, but if you think about it, we turn specific risks into general "danger" all the time -- usually by refusing (or perhaps just forgetting) to confront the real risk.

A friend of mine, who is an internationally-known expert on security, just recently wrote a great article about this very topic.  He cites a tendency of people to respond more readily to defined risks (for example, purchasing insurance that specifically covers an act of terrorism against an aircraft) than to general ones (for example, purchasing insurance that covers any emergency or accident that occurs during one's flight).  Part of this is a direct result of our fear of the unknown.  If we can define the threat, we can respond to it, and in this way we can exert some control.  Maybe, if we respond to enough specific risks, we'll cover enough of the bases to have a statistical advantage over the things we haven't considered.  Or perhaps it's more insidious than that -- we try to protect ourselves against the specific in order to avoid having to imagine what else could go wrong.

When you avoid a particular situation - for example, making sales calls for your business - this is what's happening.  You "protect yourself" from making the call (which is a specific action) and avoid having to imagine what might happen if you did make it (a wide, and as yet undefined, range of possible outcomes -- including some that are very positive!)  You've gained the security of staying in your comfort zone, but you've lost the opportunity to enjoy a favorable result.

What risks are you avoiding right now?  Take a moment to reflect on your current "risk profile."  Are you avoiding an actual "poisonous plant," or are you letting yourself be beaten by a totally undefined foe?  What does the worst-case scenario really look like?  Will someone die if you are not completely successful?  Even if something big, like your job or an item of your property is at stake, how big a deal would it be to lose it?  And how likely is that, if you're being honest and realistic about the risk?  Take the time to define the risk in concrete terms, and determine what all your options are.  Be sure, in this process, to include all the possible good outcomes as well!  Once you have honestly assessed all the sides of the situation, if you can honestly say the risk is too great, then let go of it and don't look back.  But if the risk is manageable, as most risks are, make a plan for how you will manage it.  Your plan will give you direction, focus, and confidence -- the three tools you need to stop fear in its tracks.

14 April 2009

Fear, Episode 1: Fear of Failure

Most fear falls into one of three categories: fear of the unknown, fear of change, or fear of failure.  People's ways of coping, or not coping, with these fears can be dramatic, or even downright crazy.

I happened to catch about half of the Robin Williams movie, "Man of the Year" on cable last night.  In this story, a huge technology company makes all the voting machines that people use to cast their votes for President.  As it turns out, there's a bug in the software that causes 60% of the votes to go to Williams' character, a comedian and TV talk show personality.  The company goes to extremes to prevent the public from finding out about the error, using all its considerable resources to discredit (and even attempt to murder!) the whistle-blower and lock the hapless comedian into the presidency.

What was so crazy about this is that it was a simple software error - not voter fraud, not a conspiracy, nothing anyone would go to jail over if they just admitted the error and took steps to correct it.  The "terrible consequence" would be the voters needing to go back to the polls for a redo.

But the fear of failure - of being seen to have released a faulty product or not performed flawlessly - so consumed the leaders of the company, that they were willing to conspire, commit fraud, and even kill someone to prevent anyone from finding out they had failed.

This story is fiction, and an extreme example, as all the best fables and cautionary tales are, but does it really miss the mark in any aspect but scale?  Have you ever gone to a great deal of trouble to conceal a small failure?  Have you lied to someone about failing?  Hurt someone's feelings without meaning to, because you avoided owning up?  Done any of those things in your adulthood despite learning better as a teenager?  Perhaps you decided not to try something at all, just so you could be spared the possibility of failing.  Your comfort zone is a really nice place, full of the safe, cozy status quo.  But to FAIL is the First Action In Learning.  Failures are important milestones you can never pass if you don't reach them.

If you fear failure, consider these two simple steps that can motivate you to "feel the fear and do it anyway":

1) Connect to your purpose.  Find the "why" that makes doing a scary thing worth the risk.  Envision your success clearly in your mind's eye, seeing the benefits in detail.  Know before you start what's really important to you, and be confident that the endeavor promises rewards great enough to be worth enduring a few setbacks along the way.

2) Acknowledge the possibility of failure, and what that really looks like.  Sometimes we mix up fear of failure with fear of the unknown, and create implausible scenarios far more terrible than any likely reality.  Picture failure in your head, and play the scene past it.  After you fail, what happens next?  Probably some variation on picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and starting all over again, right?  You've done that before.  Surely you can handle it again.  Besides, your imaginary failure may have already sparked an idea about how to avoid the real-life version.

Whatever you do, don't deny, evade, or lie about failure, to yourself or anyone else.  Efforts to avoid the consequences of failure very rarely lead anywhere you want to go.  Take ownership of your actions, both successful and unsuccessful, and when it does go wrong, do everything you can to make it right.  This will show you to be an honest professional worthy of others' respect, even when everything doesn't quite go according to plan.

03 April 2009

Spring Cleaning

The idea of "spring cleaning" - embracing a fresh warm day by throwing the windows open and banishing winter's dust bunnies from the corners of your house - is inspiring and refreshing.  I hope you participate in this annual ritual, taking advantage of the opportunity to purge from your life any dust, dirt, or detritus that you no longer need.

As you take on the physical task, though, I also invite you to spring clean your brain.  Mental cobwebs are as bad or worse than household ones, and they too deserve your attention.  Take a moment to reflect on your current attitudes.  What are you putting up with that is holding you back?  Are you succumbing to the poison of the daily headlines, or worse yet, "These Economic Times(TM)"?  (Are you as sick to death of that phrase as I am?)  Is there a dingy layer of negative attitudes, about your abilities, your job, or your health, polluting your brain and turning your gray matter black?  If so, are you working consciously to shine it up, or are you making excuses for why you aren't getting the results you want?

I recently read something from a colleague of mine that I thought was absolutely inspired.  She asked, "if you argue for your excuses, what do you get when you win?"  If I had to bet on it, I would bet that whatever you're winning isn't anything you really want to keep.

So go ahead and chase the skeletons out of your mental closet, and replace them with the bright light of inspiration and the colors of creativity.  Choose mantras, affirmations, or quotes that reflect the way you want the world to be.  Set a goal.  It doesn't have to be a huge one; just something you know you can do this weekend, or by next Friday, or by the end of the month, that will make your world more like you want it to be.  Use that small goal to build your confidence in your ability to achieve results, and set another one as soon as you have accomplished the first one.  Sometimes spring cleaning has to happen one room at a time, and that's okay -- as long as you start!

As for myself, well, I don't do windows, but I can help you set and achieve WAY-SMART goals.  Give me a call if I can help!

18 March 2009

Trust Takes Time

After about a year and a half of being involved in a particular networking organization, quite suddenly in the last three or four weeks, six different members of that group have approached me and expressed interest in possibly hiring me.  In the preceding not quite 18 months, I had been approached by one, or maybe two people in the group.

While this is not really surprising, it does provide a good reminder to me, which I offer in turn to any of you who may also be seeking to build your business through networking.  As they say in BNI (Business Network International), networking is about farming, not about hunting, and trust takes time.  By getting to know the members of the group, educating them about my business in short "infomercials," being friendly, patient, and available, I have now gained enough favorable attention to earn some clients in the group.

If you're in a networking group and are relatively new to it, have faith and patience.  Help the other members however and whenever you can, and rewards will come.

If you've been in a group for two years or longer and are not getting business, either the group is not a good fit for you, or it's time to revise your networking strategy in that group.  Let me know how I can help.

09 March 2009

Can You Afford It?

The word "afford" is interesting to me.  Ostensibly a word we use to reflect whether or not we have a sufficient amount of money to pay for something, in reality, "afford" is a word we more often use as an excuse to do or not to do something regardless of our economic situation.

"I can't afford it" has become the polite euphemism to decline a salesperson's proposal, regardless of the real reason why the customer might be disinclined to buy.  It has also become an attitude - a state of mind that revels in the perception of scarcity.  Even if something (say, health insurance, or proper maintenance of a car) is clearly a sound investment that will likely save big money on the back end, someone who has a resistance to such a purchase will say "I can't afford it."  Or worse yet (and I've seen this tragedy unfold more than once), someone who is uncomfortable with their perception of costs will mentally shut out the benefits.  Case in point:  an outgunned family member (often Dad) has been persuaded, through much cajoling and hours of puppy-eyed pleading, to splurge on a trip to Disney World.  Now they're there, and Dad is so busy grousing about every penny they spend on a meal or a souvenir that he completely misses a wonderful vacation with his family.  This scenario happens at all economic levels.  It's not about money.  It's about an attitude of scarcity that somehow followed Dad to Disney World when it really needed to be stuffed into the bottom of his dresser drawer back home.

My point is not that you should get crazy and ignore your budget, nor that you should ever spend money when you are uncomfortable about doing so.  But when you say "I can't afford it," ask yourself what you really mean by that.  There are actually five different reasons why people decide to buy or not to buy: how they feel about the salesperson, how they feel about the company he or she represents, how they feel about the product or service, how they feel about the price, and how they feel about the timing.  By asking yourself which of these things doesn't fit you, you will likely make better buying decisions at the same time you set yourself free from a cash crunch that may well be as much about your attitude as your bank balance.

And as for the trip to Disney World (or any other treat or luxury you elect to invite into your life), assess your bank balance first, then your desire -- and if you decide you can afford it (because it's worth not just your money, but your time, space, and attitude investments as well), make the full investment.  Only when you give your full attention, and your full intention, to the experience will you truly reap the benefits you are buying.

24 February 2009

Disposable Assumptions

I'm working with a client this week that is a startup company.  On the one hand, it's a lot of fun working with a startup, because they tend to have few or no assumptions about "the way we've always done things around here."  On the other hand, it's an interesting challenge, because there may not be much of a framework to help us figure out how to create the operational structures and processes that will become that assumption base in the future.

One of the things we are building is an organizational chart.  At first glance, this might seem simple - just take the folks who are working to build the new company, slap job titles on them, and gin up a structure that seems to fit them all together.  Or alternatively, look at someone else's business plan or org chart, and fit your people into whatever positions on that chart seem most logical.  Both of those will get you an org chart, but odds are neither of them will represent either the company you want, nor even the company you actually have.

A better approach is to create the structure first, based on the needs of the customer and the nature of the product or service.  Decide what departments are needed, how they function within themselves and among each other.  Make these decisions based on how the company needs to look ultimately, in order to meet the mission and vision while working within the values.  Then place your existing people in the right roles based on their competencies and interests, and determine what talent the company is still missing.

This exercise is not only valuable for startups.  If you've been in business for awhile, when was the last time you threw ALL your assumptions out and really examined the question of whether your company's current structure meets its current needs?  Successful companies evolve and change over time, as well they should.  After a few years, a new department may be needed, or one may need to be eliminated.  Some may need to be combined, or recombined, in order to reduce waste, improve innovation or better respond to customers and suppliers.

The process won't be quick or easy, but the results of a careful evaluation and reinvention of a company's operational structure (or even a thoughtful validation that the current structure is the best it can be) will surely reveal opportunities to increase effectiveness and profitability.

03 February 2009

New Bottles

I'm sure you've heard someone dismiss an idea with the statement, "oh, that's just old wine in new bottles."  It's a way of accusing someone of labeling an old or familiar concept as something new.

Perhaps you've drunk some old wine out of a new bottle lately -- tried a new weight loss plan (doesn't it all boil down to expending more calories than you consume?), seen the latest James Bond movie (let's face it, the plot is pretty much always the same!).  In fact, we humans often seek out the old wine for its dependable familiarity -- but at the same time, we love the new bottle because it refreshes the experience.

In the leadership development business, there are thousands of books, tapes, classes, articles, and "flavors of the month" for helping you, your career, and your company be more effective.  And some of the best, and bestselling, authors of those materials will come right out and tell you that what they are saying is not new.  A truly unique approach to leadership or business success is incredibly rare, and ones that work are even rarer.

But that is not to say this "old wine" is not rich, complex, flavorful, and satisfying.  Quite the opposite!  A "back to basics" approach to leadership may be the greatest innovation you'll ever see in a business setting.  Common sense is anything but common, and like an effective weight loss plan, it's not a passing fad and it's not easy, quick, or effortless.

There's nothing wrong with putting a fresh face on timeless ideas, if that will inspire you to act on them.  So feel free, as you build your legacy of leadership on a foundation of honest communication, clear mission, and meaningful goals, to create a beautiful, shiny new bottle to wrap around it.  By all means, put that old wine into a new bottle -- and drink deeply!

02 February 2009

Leading from the Middle

If you were following the news a couple of weeks back, no doubt you heard a lot about the amazing Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger, who performed a nearly flawless emergency ditching of the crippled U.S. Airways flight 1549 into the Hudson River.

You may not, however, have heard much about Sheila Dail, Doreen Welsh, and Donna Dent.  These three remarkable women, the flight attendants on that A320, saw to it that all 155 passengers got out of the aircraft quickly and safely.  While much credit must, and should, be given to the highly skilled pilot, he was not the only critical leader who deserves kudos and deep gratitude for a job well done.

Very few work tasks are accomplished by a single "hero."  It takes a team of talented and trained experts to handle each challenge that arises in a dynamic work environment.  For most of us, an office "crisis" is rather less dramatic than this particular example, but the principles still apply.  You will have your greatest successes when you understand your resources, your opportunities, and your constraints, and when you know how to lead from where you are.  Leadership is not a job title; it is a choice.  It is a way of living and working that stays focused on achieving the best possible results, no matter what the circumstances.

Are you a leader in your organization?  Are there people leading in your organization, like those U.S. Airways flight attendants, who deserve greater recognition for the leadership roles they assume?  How can you influence your company culture to encourage and reward effective leadership at all levels?  What can you do about it today?

26 January 2009

I Approve of This Message

Without getting too bogged down in politics, I do want to reflect on the shift that is taking place with the transfer of authority from our previous President to the current one.  There are many important messages being sent and received right now, across the entire political spectrum, but the one I like best is the message of personal accountability.

I couldn't help but get the sense, over the last eight years, that our government wanted us to sit quietly and let it take care of us.  Report suspicious activity to the proper authorities.  Relinquish all sharp objects, bottles of liquid and your shoes at the airport check point.  Be afraid of the shadows, lock your doors, and await further instructions.  Duck and cover!  And to disagree or question these policies is unpatriotic at best, and treasonous at worst.

It may be too much to hope for that we'll get our penknives back at the airports during the Obama administration, but one message is ringing out loud and clear: every American must participate in rebuilding our nation's economy, health care, and global reputation.  It is the message of personal accountability.  The message that "we are the ones we've been waiting for."

It should hardly be surprising that a business coach appreciates this message.  After all, personal accountability is the cornerstone of success.  The sooner you take full, deep ownership of your own beliefs, passions, desires, goals, and actions, the sooner you will achieve the results you want.  As you set your sights on the future, ask yourself: "is this what I really want?  Why do I want this?  How will my life be better if I achieve this?  What consequences will I face if I don't?"  If you don't discover powerfully compelling answers to these questions, you may find yourself missing your target -- and when you do, you will likely be tempted to blame outside forces (the weather, the economy, your spouse/parents/kids/boss) for your failure.

Blaming something outside your control may make you feel better for the moment, but it's nothing but a candy coating on a bitter pill.  As your grade-school teachers used to say, when you cheat, you're really not cheating anyone but yourself.  Although your success or failure may be influenced by outsiders, and may influence others, ultimately it rests squarely upon your own shoulders.

The good news is, responsibility leads directly to power.  The more you take ownership of your goals, and face your challenges with courage, the more you will discover you have the power to make great things happen.  Empowerment comes from within you, and it is a choice you get to make every day. 

So own your dreams, your projects, and your goals.  Empower yourself to achieve the success you are designing for yourself and your world.  Connect to your passion and sharpen your focus.  Use more of what you have.  Get more of what you want.

09 January 2009

Resolve and Resolutions

It's already starting.  It's the end of the first full work week of the new year, and the invitations are rolling in.  While I know (and admire) a handful of go-getters who barreled through December with full-tilt productivity, many of us, myself included, may have taken a bit of a winter's nap last month, and now we're feeling inspired (or pressured, or both) to get moving.

And this is the precise moment when that resolution, goal, or strategy is at its greatest risk of becoming buried under all that motion.  Focus is critical right now, lest we let activity become a substitute for results.

It only takes a moment to step back from one of those invitations and check it for relevance.  Is that networking event, appointment, task, project, or diversion consistent with the mission you have set for yourself this year?  How, exactly, does it get you closer to your goals?  If it doesn't, how would that time be better invested?

Resolve is a noun as well as a verb.  If you have resolved (verb) to achieve a WAY-SMART goal this year (and I hope you have), then you need to gather your resolve (noun) to stay on track toward the results you want.  To borrow from another common resolution, staying on track toward a weight-loss goal means saying no to "empty calories" that don't fit your food plan.  Staying on track with your goals means saying no to the "empty activities" that don't fit your action plan.

If you've set an ambitious goal, achieving it is going to take time.  Start now, stay focused, and soon you will be ready to bask in the glow of your success!

The Heart Gallery

I'm looking forward to attending a gala event next month, for the benefit of the Heart Gallery Orlando.  I'm looking forward to it both because it is a fundraiser for a very good cause, and also because I've always thought it would be fun to go to one of those fancy black-tie affairs where VIPs practice philanthropy among the clink of champagne glasses and tuxedoed waiters carrying silver platters of canapes.

I don't know if this will be that sort of event exactly, but I hear there will be a red carpet, and that's good enough for me.

The Heart Gallery presents a unique approach to a heartbreaking situation, namely the hundreds of children in the metropolitan Orlando area who need loving adoptive families.    The Heart Gallery is a gallery-style photo exhibit with beautiful, professional photos of about 80 kids who are currently in the Florida foster care system awaiting adoption.  The photo shoot is a chance for kids who may have little or nothing of their own to feel truly special for a day.  The exhibit raises awareness of the issue in general, as well as perhaps being a connection point for a prospective parent to fall in love with one of those children.

If you'd care to put on your dancing shoes and join me at the event, it will take place on Thursday, February 12 at the Rosen Plaza Orlando, from 6 to 10 PM.  You can learn more on my friend Jennifer's pledge page, where you can buy a ticket or just make a donation of any amount to support this cause.

And by the way - this is going to be a GREAT place to network your business!

05 January 2009

Resolution vs. Strategy

It's that time of year again - when many of us make a "New Year's Resolution."  I bet you've done it at least once.  And it's hugely compelling on January 1.  This is the year!  This is the year I... (quit smoking, lose weight, go back to school, get a better job, clean out the garage, read War and Peace, join the gym and work out every single day).

And to be fair, some people succeed in fulfilling these grand dreams.  But the gym usually empties out by mid-February, and by November you can hear crickets chirping in the Weight Watchers meeting (I know. I'm a lifetime member and I've worked for Weight Watchers).  Of course, every January it's another new invasion of the resolutionary army.

So what's the difference between the ones who make it happen and the ones who don't?  Goal planning.  Not just goal setting, because it's as easy to "set a goal" as it is to say "this is the year."  If you want to achieve the goal, you need a strategy.

If you have a New Year's resolution this year, may I suggest you improve your odds by taking a few simple steps right now, while it's fresh in your mind?

Step One: apply the WAY-SMART goal test to your resolution.  Is it:
Written down?  It's amazing what power there can be in simply making the commitment in writing.
Aligned with your purpose?  How does this goal fit into your broader life aspirations?  Why is it important to you?
Yours?  As in, a goal that has meaning for you, rather than a passing fad or someone else's definition of what's right for your?
Specific?  How will you know you have achieved it?
Measurable?  Is there some quantifiable way to define the desired result?
Attainable?  Is it appropriate for you in light of the life you have now?
Realistically high?  Not too easy, but still manageable among your other commitments?
Time-based?  Have you set a date on which you will evaluate and decide if you have succeeded?

If your resolution passes this test, you're already well on your way to success. 

Step Two:  Decide on the immediate next action that will get you closer to your goal, and do it today.  A year flies by as life's adventures come at you thick and fast, and before you know it, the "last minute" will be here.  Don't wait until then -- as Stephen Covey says, "you can't cram on a farm."  Decide, each day, what action you must take today to get closer to your goal, and take that action.  If you do this every day, and the goal is clearly enough defined that you take the right steps, your success is virtually guaranteed.

Over the next couple of weeks, watch for more ideas on how to create a winning strategy for achieving your 2009 goals.

Happy New Year!