To Focus, use the Power of “No”

To focus on my goals can often be challenging.  A few years ago I was confronted by a quote that helped me become unstuck in this area.

“If you can’t say “no,” your “yes” doesn’t mean anything” – Charles Feltman

It stopped me in my tracts because of having always viewed myself as a “Yes” type of person. Yes, everything is possible. Yes, you can do it. Yes, your goal is great. This “yes” approach was for me the embodiment of positiveness. Choosing to be positive and expecting a positive outcome was my definition of being an optimist.

Since the confrontation with the quote, I now take a different view. Saying yes to everything also has a dark side. It shatters your focus. It distracts and can become an addiction. As always, there is the need to harmonize the “yesses” (the expectation of positive outcomes ) with “no’s” (the gatekeepers of focus).

Why, other than to have integrity, would we want to say “no” in business and life? Because “no “is the key to focus and focus is one of the crucial the keys to success.

The singular focus on a critical value or outcome is what distinguished a lot of great business from those that were merely good. Jim Collins refers to it as the “Hedgehog” concept.

So what is it to focus?

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Defining Focus

The best definition, I could find is the following story:

It’s the days of the epic Mahabharata in ancient India. All the kings send their sons to the ashram of Guru Drona for their education. Guru Drona teaches them everything from the Vedas to philosophy to the art of war.

One day, Guru Drona decides to see how attentive his students are. He wants to know how far they’ve come with their skills in archery. So he places a wooden bird on a high branch of a tree. And asks his students one by one to take aim to shoot the left eye of the bird. Guru Drona then asks each one what they see before they shoot.

One by one, the students come and claim that they can see everything clearly. The forest. The trees. The branches. The bird. They then shoot their arrows. Some come close to the mark. Others miss by wide margins. One or two even hit the bird. But no one is extremely accurate.

At last, comes Arjuna. He takes aim, and then Guru Drona asks him: what do you see? But unlike everyone else’s answer, Arjuna doesn’t say that he can see everything clearly. In fact, he says: I only see the left eye of the bird.

When he shoots his arrow, it goes straight through the center of the left eye of the wooden bird. 

The power of saying “no” is in our dedication to our desired outcome. It is the conscious choice to deprive ourselves for now from specific rewards to gain the more significant reward later. It is not easy. I know.

Simplicity, among other things, is a conscious choice between inclusion and exclusion. Often the magic is in what you leave out. But this means that you need to be comfortable with saying no, to yourself and to others. This is not easy to do. – Steve Jobs

If you need a conversation to help you gain your focus, send me a message.

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Brave enough to be honest

Confronting the brutal facts are not something a lot of us do. Yet it is one of the elements of becoming everything you dream of.

In business or in life, it is comfortable to allow things to be as they are. The alternative is that we need to take responsibility to change and change (even though we yearn for it) brings with it the price tag of discomfort.

Beyond the discomfort is the prize.

The prize in life, clearly defined, is lacking, me thinks.

Wild Horses Running

That is why most people stay where they are. Vague dreams of living a good life, wishing thing could be better, are bountiful. Therefore stuckness in the norm.

To be unstuck. Liberated. You and I need to be honest.

Honest first with ourselves. Then learn how to authentic with others.

I recently watched Mark Leruste be honest about the entrepreneurial experience. I love the way how he distinguishes between the marketed reality of social media and the experienced reality of everybody. I acknowledge him for voicing what so many business owners experience. I invite you to have a look at his TEDx talk.

My last thoughts.

Face the truth. No matter how uncomfortable. But do not be overwhelmed by it. Face it with love. Love is a verb. Love is that what you do or not do, that leaves the beloved better off. Truth without love is brutal, love without truth is sentimental. Truth saturated with love is powerful.

How Culture trumps Strategy

Whenever I walk into a business, as a client or a coach, I pay attention to the emotional vibe I pick up from the employees. The vibe I pick up is my subjective assessment of the culture of the business.

When I pick up a vibrant, friendly or warm vibe, I come to the conclusion that there is a healthy culture. When I experience cold, distant encounter, I know something is not right with the culture. Pay attention the next time you walk into a shop or business. Look past the trained customer service friendliness, and see if you pick up the subtle vibe. Do employee laugh with each other or are they ships passing each other in the night? Do they stand in for each other or leave you waiting while the person helping you is away?

I have often found that often management does a lot of strategic planning, that goes nowhere. Merely because they do not consider the culture of the business. If the people do not follow where you lead, your plan fails.

Culture is the underlying of emotional wellbeing in any company.

Imagine your business as a garden.

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The design is your strategic plan. The plants are your employees. The fruit and flowers are the products or services your clients enjoy. Culture is the soil in which your plants grow.

Without good soil, your garden is going nowhere.

Another way to think about culture is to notice “the way we do things around here.” It is the unwritten rules in any company, and it evolves automatically if it is not created deliberately.

How do we create a healthy culture? By consciously choosing the purpose and values of your organization. Business owners should pay as much attention to deliberately creating a culture than as they pay attention to strategy or financial report. It is paying attention to the whole business that it will prosper.

If you are interested in cultivating a culture in which employees can flourish, please contact me.

Are you a “Multipotentialite”?

A question that is often asked by my clients is “What is my purpose in life?”

This is an important question. To have a sense of purpose is one of the leading ingredients of living a happy life. It gives us a sense of direction and helps guide us when we need to make difficult choices.

Unfortunately, a lot of people live without a guiding north star. Our society is complex and ever-changing. Most people are swept up in the various tides of change. Having a sense of purpose helps to feel anchored.

I find that there is a challenge to creating this sense of purpose. The challenge is the assumption that there is only one purpose for each person.

This creates anxiety. Looking at the multitude of options available, which one is my purpose?  What if I choose the wrong purpose and spend my life locked in pursuit of this destiny?

The scary beauty of our reality is that there is more than one possible outcome. We might only be able to experience one at a time, but this does not mean we need to settle for one. Emile Wapnick gives a lovely TEDx talk on this. She calls it being a multipotentialite.

“A multipotentialite is someone with many interests and creative pursuits.”

What the TEDx video here

I love her perspective “…we should all be designing lives and careers that are aligned with how we’re wired.”

The world needs us to do this

 

Levels of Leadership and Quotes that go with it

There are a lot of voices and opinions about what leadership is and every one of them would agree that we need high-quality leaders in today’s society.

My thinking about leadership does not add anything spectacularly new to the conversation. I am more interested in how do we get or become the high-quality leaders our world need.  Some years ago, in his classic book, “Good to Great,” Jim Collins introduced the concept of a level 5 leader as a description of a high-quality leader. This framework helped me in my thinking, and as I am sorting and clarifying the concept for myself, I would like to share some quotes as thinking points and conversation starters. Let me know what you think.

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The five levels if Leadership

Level 1: Highly Capable Individual. At this level, you make high-quality contributions with your work. You possess useful levels of knowledge, and you have the talent and skills needed to do a good job. This level is mostly inward focused on self-leadership.

Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” – Jack Welch

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” –  Albert Schweitzer

Level 2: Contributing Team Member. At Level 2, you use your knowledge and skills to help your team succeed. You work effectively, productively and successfully with other people in your group

“A leadership position is one that requires many different skills. It is an activity that is sometimes hard to measure, but the results of the team will determine the leader’s success.” – Catherine Pulsifer

“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” – Sam Walton

Level 3: Competent Manager. Here, you’re able to organize a group efficiently to achieve specific goals and objectives.

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want to be done because he wants to do it.” – Dwight Eisenhower

“The best leader is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants to be done, and the self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” -Theodore Roosevelt

Level 4: Effective Leader. Level 4 is the category that most top leaders fall into. Here, you’re able to galvanize a department or organization to meet performance objectives and achieve a vision.

“Average leaders raise the bar on themselves; good leaders raise the bar for others; great leaders inspire others to raise their own bar.” – Orrin Woodward

“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” – Bill Gates

Level 5: Great Leader. At Level 5, you have all of the abilities needed for the other four levels, plus you have the unique blend of humility and will that are required for real greatness.

It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership. – Nelson Mandela.

“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor but without folly.” – Jim Rohn

One of the best paradoxes of leadership is a leader’s need to be both stubborn and open-minded. A leader must insist on sticking to the vision and stay on course to the destination. But he must be open-minded during the process. – Simon Sinek

and finally, a surprising yet powerful summery:

“A leader is a dealer in hope.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

 

This is the true joy of life

This is the true joy of life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one, the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap, the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” – George Bernard Shaw

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I love this quote from George Bernard Shaw. It is powerful. What stands out to me is “recognized by yourself”.

In a world full of agendas. Those of government, your boss, marketing companies, friends, salespeople, to be able to recognize your own agenda is crucial.

When we don’t know what is important to us, everybody else’s “important” takes us along.

On a personal level this is true, but more so in business. Decisions made in the shadow of a definite purpose leads to business growth and it gives employees a sense of security.

It must be “mighty”

Said purpose must be “a mighty one”. Just making money is not mighty. When greed and fear born out of a scarcity mindset are allowed to be the motivators, it will lead to the illusion that making money is a good purpose. This is similar to fixating on the odometer when you want to travel a great distance. It is not smart to get all wrapped up in the measuring instrument and forget about what you want to measure. Money is the measurement of value added.

Adding value can be “a mighty” purpose.

A Business that is constantly measuring how to add more value to its customer will grow. An employee working with a mindset of “am what I doing adding value to the company,” is the one that employers are looking for.

Leaders in business need to remember this and constantly remind the people they are leading of the “big why” they are doing what they are doing. The higher purpose of a business should be like the air we breathe. Ever present.

Beware of the Hurdles

Why, one can ask, are there so few businesses with a higher purpose?

I think, mostly because it takes effort. It takes dedication and biggest of all, it takes the courage to acknowledge that the world is bigger than me.

Our immature egos are the biggest hurdle to greatness. We most often stand in our own way. The world does not revolve around us. Businesses and business owners who think this way do not last long. A man that is wrapped up in himself, makes a pretty small package.

In contrast. By recognizing that that we can play a role in the bigger world, that our business has a controbution to make outside our doors, our purpose grows in might.

The second hurdle is the lie we belief that things should be easy. Trust me, if everything was easy, you would be more unhappy than you are now. For us, to function optimally, we need a challenge. So stop complaining and embrace it when things go wrong. It is your opportunity to shine. To show off your strength.

It is up to you to “recognize” a  mighty purpose which will compliment your strengths. Something that will stretch you outside your comfort zone and facilitate the development of these strengths.

It is like the muscles in your body. The more you use it, the more it develops the bigger things you can pick up. Same is true in business. A business’ strengths are those unique solution you offer the marketplace. The problems you solve. The value you add.

So how would your life (and your business) be different if you recognise (because it is bigger than you) your “mighty” purpose and spend yourself on it?

Spending

H