Category Archives: Productivity

7 Keys to Being a Brilliant Leader

Many people think that leaders are born, not made and that if they aren’t officially a Manager, Director, Executive Directory, Vice President, President or CEO, that they are really a leader.

I beg to differ.  Leadership is a set of specific behaviors that can be learned.

Here are seven keys I believe are critical to transforming ordinary people into extraordinary leaders.

1. Evoke the emotions of others
True leaders inspire people.  They touch their hearts on issues that are important to them.  They raise hope while acknowledging and accepting the human frailties we all possess.  Leaders make people connect the change they are striving to cause to their own needs and desires.

2. Believe in people
It’s hard for us to see skeptics or critical, negative people as leaders because they don’t do anything proactive to make us feel good about ourselves.  On the other hand, leaders see the rough diamonds buried in our hearts and bring them to light so that WE can see them too.

3. Have a compelling vision and be passionate in expressing it
Great leaders see a future that is dramatically different than the present we live in and they don’t keep it a secret.  They articulate that future and tell us WHY it’s important that we move toward it. They know they are on the right track even when the rest of the world is still asleep to or in denial about the problem.

4. Never give up but stay flexible
Leaders with big visions are often seen as crack pots or zealots before the masses catch on to the imoportance of their platform.  Expect to encounter some resistance at the beginning, but don’t give up on what you believe in.  Do however, stay present to new developments and trends and what’s on the minds of the people in your burgeoning ‘tribe’.  Find common ground with them an incorporate what you can into your vision, but don’t dilute it too much by trying to please everyone. You won’t.

5. Be an exemplary model
The increased visibility that your leadership will generate will put you in the spotlight. Keep your hands clean.  Don’t be tempted by your growing power and influence.  Also, don’t avoid leadershp if you have a shady past.  If you have truly repented, take ownership for your humanity and mistakes.  Share what you’ve learned from your errant ways and promise to stay on the straight and narrow.  And then stay there.

6. Demonstrate integrity
Keep your word. Be consistent in your actions.  Do what you say you’re going to do.  Tell the truth. Make decisions your mother, spouse, children, grandmother would be proud of.  Live as though your life will be played out in the media because it might actually end up there.

7. Ask for input and help
Don’t try to get to ‘the promised land’ alone.  You can’t. And even if you do, it won’t be very gratifying. As you enroll others in your vision, identify key people in your cause and solicit their opinions and help.  The more people you have actively engaged and on the bandwagon with you leading others as well, the easier your road trip will be.

Do these things consistently and you’ll find yourself living a fulfilled life, making a difference and leaving the world in a better place than you found it.  That is your purpose so go live it.

3 Questions You MUST Ask to Keep Your Job or Clients and Make More Money

It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind of responding to all of the urgent requests you get.  If that’s all you do, you could be putting your livelihood at risk.

Early in my career, I worked at the worldwide headquarters for Kraft Foods as the Corporate Recruiter.  The VP of HR gave everyone in the department a token for our desks to remind us how to stay focused.

It displayed 3 simple questions…

1. What’s my job?
You must be clear about what’s expected of you.  How are you supposed to spend your time and energy?  What are you supposed to do?

People (bosses, employees, clients and vendors) make assumptions about what’s supposed to be done.  They often assume that the other person has the same understanding that they do.  This is not always the case.  It’s critical that you confirm your understanding of your job with your boss or clients.

Be clear. Write down your understanding. Have the review your document and then discuss it.

2. What counts?
Once you have the clarity, the next step is setting priorities. I remember hearing a story about a new senior manager at Apple asking her Director boss if her job was to get things done or make people happy.  She knew technically what she was supposed to do – oversee the implementation of all software development projects.  She just needed clarity about HOW to go about making that happen.

If trade-offs have to happen, make sure you’re clear about what criteria will be used to make those trade-offs.

3. How am I doing?
This is a great question to ask yourself AND the people you’re delivering your service to.  You know if your slacking or not.

You may not know though how well your boss or client think you’re doing.

Better to check in periodically than risk being blinded-sided by the sudden disclosure you’re not measuring up.  People are sometimes reluctant to offer negative feedback. So they may just put up with being unhappy until they can’t stand it anymore.  Then they fire you when you don’t measure up to their (uncommunicated) standards.

Don’t be caught by surprise.  Assess your performance constantly and get feedback from people important to your success to make sure you stay on track.

Structure Your Week to Maximize Your Time

Many people I know complain about being too busy, not having enough time then feeling scattered and ineffective.  Yet they aren’t sure what to do about it.

In fact, we are each given the same amount of time: 24 hours, 1,400 minutes or 86,400 seconds each day.

The critical element is how we use that time.  Some people produce amazing results, mega deals or profound impact on their community.  Others seem to fritter away their time on meaningless activities, designed to have them feel comfortable and safe, but never reaching anywhere near their full potential.

I thought I’d share with you the strategy and tactics I use to allocate and leverage my time for maximum advantage and impact.

The over-arching short-term strategy is time blocking. I set aside chunks of time to focus and concentrate on one project or similar activities.  The advantage of this is rooted in early industrial age theories where doing similar, repetitive activities builds up a rhythm – a flow – which maximizes throughput.  When you multi-task, switching from phone calls, to email, to internet research to writing, your brain loses momentum.  The constant effort required to shift gears deludes you into thinking you’re accomplishing things while secretly eating away at your effectiveness.

I ‘see’ clients Tuesday – Thursday. That’s when I also attend a very few, carefully selected networking events and most speaking engagements. I schedule outside meetings around where I’m going to be in the city rather than driving all over creation for coffee or lunch. I strive to stay in the office on Mondays and Fridays and have very little client interaction on those days.  They are for me!

I subscribe to Marketing Mondays when I generally write these articles. I make plans for the week of who I need to call for prospecting or follow up purposes. I sketch out email marketing campaigns.

I also have Financial Fridays on the calendar.  That’s when I deal with some simple QuickBooks accounting issues and sales tax reporting. This keeps me current by doing a little each week so it doesn’t pile up and become overwhelming.

Here are 7 of my favorite other tactics.

1. Be crystal clear of your Dream Destination.
Think about this like your own personal “Happy Ending”. It’s not about the end of  your life but it is the state and quality of your life several years out in the future.  If things had gone better than you ever expected, what would you be experiencing?

2.  Sketch out a plan for the coming year.
You likely won’t get to your Dream Destination in one year and it’s tricky planning concrete events much farther out than a year. Convert your goals and outcomes to milestones and events and put activities (calls, meetings, marketing campaigns etc) on your calendar. Be bold and courageous as you do this.

3. Review long term goals at least monthly.

This will keep you from getting too distracted from immediate burning issues that would otherwise knock you off of your big target goals. You might decide to change your goals but at least it won’t be because you ‘forgot’ about them and their due date snuck up on you.

4.  Before you leave the office every day, make a list of the most important things to get done the following day.
If you skip this step, you run the risk of losing focus and getting caught up in unproductive busy work. You’ll forget about the important things and the day will end before you notice.

5.  Make sure marketing your business is on the list every day.
It’s tempting to spend all of your time serving your clients, but you can’t ignore the importance of continually engaging in marketing activities and sales conversations. Whether it’s nurturing referral partners, making cold, warm or follow up phone calls, or building lead generation processes for your website, you must perform actions that bring potential new clients ‘into the fold’.

6. Do the scariest things first.

Think big.  Then think bigger.  Make that important call.  Prepare yourself by doing some research so you’re prepared but don’t postpone making big calls by consuming yourself with research.

7. Delegate, delegate, delegate

I’ve said this before but it’s so important, it bears repeating.  Invest your valuable time to business development and selected product development that creates value for your firm.

Implement these practices on a consistent basis and watch your productivity soar.

6 Critical Leadership Tools, Skills & Behaviors

Great leadership is the display of a combination of tools, skills and behaviors.  It isn’t the result of position power or personality.  Consequently, it can be learned and demonstrated.

Think of the great leaders you’ve known.  I’ll bet they demonstrated most if not all of these skills.

Here’s my list of the top tools, skills and behaviors.

1. Standards
Great leaders set high standards for themselves and the people around them.  They expect people to ‘step up’ in ways they may not even believe they can.  They require exemplary behavior and thinking.  They inspire others to perform at the highest levels possible.

2. Feedback
Honest, authentic communication is the hallmark of a great leader.  They are able to express difficult sentiments, communicate expectations and let people know how they are performing vis-a-vis the expectations while leaving those people empowered and ready to forge ahead.

3.  Rewards
Rewards are great for creating external motivation for achieving goals.  Effective leaders understand the unique values and priorities of the people around them and custom tailor rewards to activate the intrinsic desires that make people perform and  excel.

4. Stamp
When great leaders encounter inappropriate behavior, they don’ t stick their head in the sand and ignore it. They stamp it out – quickly and decisively.  They are swift in their response to restate expectations and request those expectations be met. This creates and a sense of fairness on the team and credibility for the leader.

5. Care
John C. Maxwell is often quoted as saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” When leaders go out of their way to demonstrate their humanity, empathy and concern for others, they create an ultra-strong bond with the people around them.

6. Belief
Great leaders have an unwavering belief in the potential of people.  They assume people want to excel and just need pathways, resources and the confidence to express their excellence.

Regardless of where you are in an organization’s hierarchy, you can practice using these tools and behaviors thereby enhancing your effectiveness as a leader.

How to Position Yourself for the Economic Recovery in 3 Simple Steps

The economy is showing signs of recovering.  It may be a slow rebound but there are things you MUST be doing now to make sure you participate in the recovery when it comes.

I talk to many business owners who are either hunkered down themselves waiting for the economic ‘storm’ to blow over or they’re trying to sell their products or services to those who are hunkered down.  Either way, not much is happening in the small business world.  Even the executives I speak to in corporations are still being a bit cautious about the investments they’re making in people, products and services.

1. Improve systems

Now is the time to make sure your internal engine is running properly.  Evaluate your sales, production, service delivery and administrative processes.  Determine how well they are functioning.  Do this even if you are the only person in your ‘company’. Ask yourself and your team if you have one where breakdowns happen. Who’s not getting the info they need?  What’s taking too long to happen?  What can be automated or streamlined? What needs to be documented so others can carry out the task when a transition occurs?

I helped one of my clients and his team eliminate the breakdowns between the office and field functions.  Right after that, his business exploded.  While we didn’t work directly on sales, he confided to me that if we hadn’t fixed his process breakdowns, they would have not been able to handle the onslaught of work and would have looked like “complete idiots”.  Save yourself from that potential business-killing embarrassment.

Improving systems improves your profitability.

2. Improve you

When you’re trimming expenses, it’s tempting to cut training.  Large and small companies often make the mistake of eliminating training when budgets are tight because the ROI on training seems slower and in some cases, hard to measure.  Yet, It’s during times of trouble that you MUST make sure everyone is functioning at their optimal level…including you!

You and your staff are your company’s most valuable possession. You might have some trademarked or patented processes. But even still, you and your people are carrying them out. No people or ineffective people, no profits.

Times are changing.  Even when the economy recovers, nothing will be quite the same again.  Make sure you and your team are mentally ready with the skills and attitudes that will carry you through the next iteration of the global economy. Invest now and position yourself to trounce the competition.

3. Improve sales

When you do the first two things, it’s likely that your sales will increase on their own.  However, here are a few tips for increasing sales even more.  Get feedback from clients about what you’re offering them and they need now.  Make sure you’ve adjusted to the current environment.  Consider flexible payment terms.  Cater to a different (hungrier or higher-income) crowd. Offer new products, programs and services. Talk to more people.  If you’re not having a number of sales conversations every day, you’re leaving money on the table.

Focusing on these three simple steps will help position you well for the recovery. Don’t sit around moping.  I’m sure you heard the phrase “God helps those who help themselves” when you were growing up.  Implementing these steps is one way you can help yourself. Get to work!