In the end it’s the execution that matters.

two-paths-to-the-endEveryone doesn’t have to agree with you. What matters is that everyone aligns on the outcome and then figures out the path to get there. In fact, if execution is the key then disagreement will get you to a better place. If everyone agrees there is no new thought or challenge. It has been said that, “We find comfort among those who agree with us – growth among those who don’t.”

So how do you work through disagreement to get to execution? Here are three distinct steps that will lead to the right answer:

Disagreement. Start with the belief that disagreement is nothing more than people feeling free to voice a different opinion, or question an assumption. You should not only let this happen but encourage it to happen in the right way. Zig Ziglar has said, “You can disagree without being disagreeable,” and the right atmosphere for disagreement should be maintained. Questions raised, ideas shared, and objections levied are all documented to be taken into consideration in the next step – discussion.

“Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Discussion. Never discount an idea that is different than your own. Instead, each question asked in pursuit of the desired end state deserves an answer, and every objection should be heard and talked through. This is the only way to process the honest disagreement.

“An oil lamp becomes brighter after trimming; a truth becomes clearer after being discussed.”– Chinese Proverb

Decision. At this point you are ready to make the decision as you now have more knowledge than when you started this process. The disagreements have been raised and thoroughly discussed so that the next step is clearer. Decisions made in this way will be carry the most impact.

“It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.”– Tony Robbins

The best answers are often questions

the-right-questionSometimes easy answers are just too easy, and aren’t the best answers. Often the best answers are questions that force us to dig deeper into the issue. Good questions can challenge our assumptions and lead us down another path than the easy answer would. Paul Samuelson, the first American to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, said “Good questions outrank easy answers.”

Take the time to ask questions and you will see that you and other people will learn more even if you think you know the answer.

Questions help get to the right answer. We have heard about the five whys of consulting – asking why until you uncover the root cause. Peter Drucker says the best consultants work by simply asking a few questions. People are better connected to the outcome if they are part of developing the plan.

Here are a few ways to ask questions that helps others discover the right answer for them:

“How would you go about accomplishing this….” then listen to their ideas.

“What would happen if…” then challenge different assumptions in the answers being presented.

“Have you thought about…” then offer alternative options to be discussed.

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”  – Benjamin Franklin

The right questions help solve the right problem. The human mind is a wonderful machine that is a problem solver. When you pose a question, it works tirelessly to seek the answer. The key to solving the right problem is to ask the right question.

If something is not working, we might ask ourselves and our team, “Why can’t we accomplish this?” That is the wrong question because all of your energy will focus on understanding the ways you have been deficient and uncovering reasons why you can’t succeed.

Instead, in the same situation the right question is, “What does it take to accomplish this?” With this question you and your team will begin to identify all that needs to happen to succeed. Once you have solved that, your next question should be, “How can we deliver what it takes to succeed?” and so on until you narrow down the right answer to the right question.

“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask… for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.” – Albert Einstein

Deliver when you get the chance

deliver when you get the chance“If they’d only give me a chance.” Ever heard that? Or said that? What would you do if they’d give you the chance? Would you succeed? A better way to get a chance to succeed is to seek out chances and not wait for it to happen. If you want to be successful and deliver the results when your chance comes along, here is the strategy for doing just that:

“Success doesn’t come to you; you go to it.” – Marva Collins

Decide now how you will act. You can’t wait for your chance to decide what to do, you have to plan to take action. When choices come along there are more people than you who are looking for it.

“If you don’t design your own plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” – Jim Rohn

Dive in and get started. Every chance might not be the one that puts you over the top. Don’t wait for the perfect chance – as long as it’s moving you in the right direction take advantage of it and get going.

“You don’t get many chances in the world, and you don’t want to throw them away.” – Peter Hook

Deliver the results. Chance alone does not determine the outcome, it’s what you do with the chance that matters. Make it count, do your best each and every time no matter what

“It’s choice – not chance – that determines your destiny.” – Jean Nidetch

 

Focus – What should you stop looking at?

focus - what not to look atWe just bought a new camera. My daughter was showing us how you can change the picture so the subject is in focus and the background is blurred or the background is in focus and the subject is blurred. It’s a really neat effect that makes the same scene look totally different in the two pictures.

I think this is the same way in life and in work. Some people look out and see too much to do and say there is no way to get this all done. Other people see only what they choose to do and blur out the rest. The same scene looks totally different to each viewer.

Don’t focus on everything. In a good way there is always enormous opportunity to improve, enhance, or create almost anything and everything – and someday, someone should do that – maybe you. For now, some of those opportunities are less important than others. If you try to accomplish all of them or even a lot of them, you are likely to make only marginal progress for a very long time.

“Sticking things out is overrated, particularly if you stick out the wrong things.” – Seth Godin, Whatca Gonna Do With That Duck?

Do focus on what’s essential. Figure out which of the everythings are the best things and stop looking at the rest. Stephen Covey says you can’t manage time, you can only manage yourself within the bounds of time.

“The key is not to prioritize your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” Stephen Covey

Do what you focus on well. In his book on Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson said, “Jobs insisted that Apple focus on just two or three priorities at a time.” Macintosh, iPod, iPhone, iPad…Just some of the successes that come from focus.

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” – Warren Buffet

Presentations that make a difference

presentationsPresentations are not just opportunities for you to talk, show some numbers or pictures, and maybe get a laugh or two; they are much more than that. Let’s start with what a presentation is. It can be when you are up in front of a room with people listening to you talk about a specific topic. It can also be project meetings, one on one meetings, hallway conversations, and social media posts which are just as much presentations as the front of the room kind and deserve the same kind of preparation and intention.

With that definition in mind, the ultimate goal of each presentation is to cause something to stir in the audience so that each person leaves with a new idea, new goal, or new challenge. Your presentation is a chance to make a difference in someone’s life.

I keep these three ideas in mind as I prepare for each kind of presentation and throughout each presentation because sometimes you have to read the audience and adjust.

Who is the audience? Before you present, you need to know how many people you will be communicating with and their familiarity with the topic. If it’s a small groups of experts, then it will be an in depth discussion on a few points while a large group with little familiarity will mean an overview. Every presentation should be tailored to the audience and not be a rote reading of the same facts and telling of the same stories.

We’ve come to understand the power of knowing your audience on social media – everything is targeted to the finest detail possible – you should do no less for your presentations to the degree you can. If you stop and think about it, you likely know enough about most of your audiences to make it personal so your presentation makes a difference to them. 

“The most important thing to remember is you must know your audience.”– Lewis Howes

What does your audience need? Now that you know who your audience is, you should answer these questions: Why are they attending this presentation? Why should they care about what you are saying? If this is a hallway conversation on the way to lunch the answer to these two questions is: Because you were walking in the same direction, and you struck up a good conversation on the way. On the other hand, if it is a project meeting the answers are likely: To get or share an update, and because you have information/resources/approval authority they need.

When it comes to audience needs, think big picture and small picture. What are their career goals, personal goals, what happened today? You have to take all of this into consideration to have a presentation that makes a difference. Even if it is just a walk to lunch.

“If you target audience isn’t listening, it’s not their fault, it’s yours.” – Seth Godin

How can I add value to the audience? You know who the audience is and what they need, now it’s time to plan how you can deliver that to them. I believe that the presentation process works best when the audience is not given the answer but is lead through a series of stories, questions, challenges in which they find their answer. It’s not enough that you are passionate about your topic, your audience needs to be passionate for themselves.

Frank Capra, the director of It’s a Wonderful Life, and other great movies said it like this, “I made mistakes in drama. I thought drama was when the actors cried. But drama is when the audience cries.”

Take your audience through an experience in your presentation where they can find their answer.

“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” – Carl W. Buechner.

 

Are you ready for success?

ready for successWill you be ready when the perfect opportunity to have the success you always wanted comes along?

Johnny Carson was the host of the Tonight Show for thirty years where he interviewed thousands of talented people, many who received their big break on his show. Carson himself received a big break when Red Skelton asked him to be a comedy writer on his show. Not long after he joined, Skelton was unable to host one of his live shows and Carson successfully filled in for him. How did Carson get ready for this perfect opportunity?   His college major was speech and drama as he wanted to become a radio performer. His college thesis was titled “How to Write Comedian Jokes” where he analyzed and explained the comedic techniques from popular radio shows of the day.

Johnny Carson talked about becoming successful when he said, “Talent alone won’t make you a success. Neither will being in the right place at the right time, unless you are ready. The most important question is: ‘Are you ready?’”

The first step in being ready for success is to define success. What is success? That is personal to you. Each of us defines success in our own way. In order to be ready for success, you must start with a clear picture of what success means to you. This is the light that will guide the choices that you make. It’s why you do what you do.

You should recognize that you are always working for a purpose, so you should make it a good one. As author and speaker Tony Gaskin says, “If you don’t build your dream, someone else will hire you to help them build theirs.”

The second step in being ready for success is to start getting ready. The best way to start is to start. Build a plan that includes what you need to know, who you need to know, and how you will obtain both then start with the first activity. Your path will become clearer as you move forward and you can and will adjust your plan.

“Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire and begin at once, whether you are ready or not.”– Napoleon Hill

The last step in being ready for success is to take the opportunities. Now that you have defined success and are getting ready for it, you must be on the lookout for and willing to grab hold of opportunities when they arrive. When you make a point of measuring each event against your plan for success you will find that there are more chances than you knew.

“If we are paying attention to our lives, we’ll recognize those defining moments…that if jumped on would get our careers and personal lives to a whole new level of wow.” – Robin S. Sharma

Are we willing to do what they did to get where they are?

long road of successWe admire successful people – and with good reason. Their accomplishments are often awe inspiring. We see what they do, what they have, and the impact they have on the world and we want the same for ourselves.

We want to be the sports star, the singer, the business person, but are we willing to do what they did to get where they are?

Overnight success rarely happens overnight. It’s only after years of hard work and often struggle, that someone is ready for their overnight success.

Baseball legend Willie Mays talked about what it took to be successful in his sport, “In order to excel, you must be completely dedicated to your chosen sport. You must also be prepared to work hard and be willing to accept constructive criticism. Without one-hundred percent dedication, you won’t be able to do this.”

What did they really do to get there? Mary Kay Ash founded Mary Kay Cosmetics in 1963 with a $5,000 investment. Today the company has over 3 million consultants worldwide and wholesale volume in excess of 3 billion. During her life, Mary Kay won many business honors including the Horatio Alger Award, was inducted into the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame, and authored four best-selling books. Mary Kay Cosmetics was named as one of “The 100 best companies to work for in America,” by Fortune Magazine.

On success, Mary Kay is quoted as saying, “You can have anything in this world you want, if you want it badly enough and you’re willing to pay the price.”

Here is a brief history of her rise to success. While in high school her father became ill and her mother supported the family working 14 hours a day in a restaurant. Mary Kay took care of her father along with attending high school. She married at 17 and she and her husband had three children. While he served in World War II she took a job selling books. Ash went on to work 25 years in corporate sales before resigning to turn her attention to writing a book, which became her plan for Mary Kay Cosmetics.

In 1963, Mary Kay and her second husband started the company, Mary Kay Cosmetics.  Before the company could open its operational storefront in Dallas, her second husband suddenly died and the rest, as they say, is history.

Are you ready for the journey? Og Mandino wrote the bestselling book The Greatest Salesman in the World in 1968 at the age of 35. He went on to write many others and his books have sold over 50 million copies and have been translated into over 25 languages.

After graduating high school, Mandino planned to study journalism in college. When his mother died in the summer he chose not to attend college but to enter the Air Force and became a pilot during World War II. After the war he became an insurance salesman and found himself in a library despondent as he was not living the life he desired. Reading several self-help books here and in many other libraries he found the W. Clement Stone book, Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude that changed his life.

Og Mandino commented on his journey and said, “The road to success, for me, was a long and arduous journey, strewn with obstacles and traps, pitfalls and hurdles. I speak of those sad and frustrating times in the hope that my personal experiences will serve as sufficient evidence for all who hear me that they have it in their own power to make their lives as glorious as they choose.”

Speak plainly about transitions.

transitionsTransitions can be difficult. What makes them even harder is when we don’t talk about what’s needed to succeed. Going off to college, starting a new job, retiring from your career are all transitions that require planning and the same three action steps.

“The key is to take small, conscious steps and prepare yourself for a successful transition.”– Jack Canfield, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul

Self-motivation. Successful transitions require that you get yourself started. No one is going to make you succeed, you have to want to succeed. Determine to be the best at whatever this next phase of your life is and to not give up until you reach it.

“Wanting something is not enough. You must hunger for it. Your motivation must be absolutely compelling in order to overcome the obstacles that will invariably come your way.” – Les Brown

Self-sufficiency. Successful transitions require that you get what you need. Self-sufficiency is not having all that you want – It’s knowing how to connect, communicate and cooperate with other people to obtain what you need. Every transition means starting over in building your network of people that will help you.

“It is precisely because neither individuals nor small groups can be fully self-sufficient that cooperation is necessary.” – Tom Palmer

Selflessness. Successful transitions require that you give what others need. The end goal of transitions is to have made it to the next level. Once you are there, you help others who are trying to make it like you did if you want to fully reap the benefits of your work.

“Only those who have learned the power of sincere and selfless contribution experience life’s deepest joy: true fulfillment.” – Tony Robbins

Want to be generous? Get more to give more.

generous with your giftsA generous person must first be a successful person who is focused on what they have before they can think about how to use it. Understanding what you have and getting more of it is half of the equation – the other half is how you use what you have. Success only comes from finding a way to bring these two pieces together – the having, and the giving. Zig Ziglar put these two concepts together when he said, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”

Understand what you have. When we talk about being generous, money is the obvious first place we go to. But money is only the beginning and in the long run the lessor of what we have to give. We are all endowed with gifts that we can be generous with – Time, Knowledge, Encouragement – to name a few.

We don’t really know what others are looking for so as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think.”

Getting more of what you have. There are many books and conferences dedicated to getting more money, so let’s look at the how we can be dedicated to get more of the other gifts we can give.

Time – There is a finite amount of time so in reality we can’t get more, but if we want to give more of our time we can prioritize how we are using the time we have. Start by deciding what activities are the most important then align your time to accomplishing those.

Knowledge – We all know something, and most people know a lot. If you want to be generous with your knowledge, then the path to getting more is fairly simple – read more, study more, discuss more – strive to learn more each day, a little at a time.

Encouragement – Lifting others up requires much more passive skills than we think. The key activity of encouragement is listening. This requires that we strive to gain more patience to search for just the right moment to ask the right question, or perhaps point out a new direction for someone to consider.

Robin Sharma talks about creating Perfect Moments in our lives and in the lives of others. All of these perfect moments revolve around experiences with those that we are closest to. He says, “Living a gorgeous life doesn’t require a lot of money. Just a lot of dedication.”

Using what you have. In his book The Greatest Salesman in the World, Og Mandino writes about achieving a life of abundance. The main character in this book learns the full measure of success when he is told, “Remember that there is no happiness in having or in getting, but only in giving.”

Understanding what we have and how to get more of it only leads to success when we are generous in sharing. Find ways to be in situations to use what you have for the benefit of others. Measure your opportunities against the yardstick of generosity and you will find success will be yours to receive and to give.

Don’t stop at good, go for great

good to great nelson mandelaI have been working in business for thirty years and have a successful career.

I started writing in addition to my career because I saw it as a way to reach and teach many more people than I could just one-on-one or speaking to groups. I still mentor, teach, and speak today and enjoy every opportunity but I also write a blog and have a following on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter where I share my thoughts on leadership. That was a big step for me to now reach over 10,000 people regularly.

Three years ago I published my first book, The Leadership GPS, and it became an Amazon Best Seller.

These have all been steps on my personal journey from good to great and I’m not done – I am in the process of writing my next book. You see, I call my goal from good to great, Change The World Through Leadership Now.

After each step towards my goal I could see the next step I needed to take. It is just like Nelson Mandela said, “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”

I want to share with you the three steps I consistently take on my journey from good to great:

Sharpen your focus. Life can be full of issues that need to be resolved. We can get really good at managing them. Many of these issues are important and need your investment – it’s ok if you take care of them, just don’t let this become your life’s work. Keep focused on your good to great goal and get back to it regularly – and if you can, perhaps you can use solving the issues as part of your good to great goal.

“Managing your problems can only make you good, whereas building your opportunities is the only way to become great.” – Jim Collins, Good to Great

Accomplish small steps. Great things are rarely achieved with the first try. It’s a process that builds on itself. With each small step of success ask yourself “What’s next?” And use what you’ve built to reach the next step.

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” – Vincent Van Gogh

Finish with great. Great is a life-long dream. Believe you will reach it and keep climbing.   No matter how many times you may slip, pick yourself up, learn from what happened and get going again.

“Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.” – Napoleon Hill

 

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