Sunday, March 22, 2015

You Can't Wish for Abundance

Recently, I have noticed a marked increase in stories about and people “believing” that if you wish for abundance, or success, or a great relationship, or whatever, that the universe will manifest it for you. Note: YOU CAN'T WISH FOR ABUNDANCE! I know some people think by just thinking of or wishing for or buying something, like an abundance ring, is going to bring abundance into your life. It does not and will not. Having an amulet or lucky trinket and just believing makes as much sense as thinking that a leprechaun will bring a pot of gold to your door.

I am NOT saying that a positive attitude is not necessary to see and realize a better future. But in order to get to the future, it takes work and getting off your ass and developing into some who earns abundance. Yes, sometimes people do get lucky, and good fortune smiles upon them, but it is usually a single event, and before they know it, that “abundance” has disappeared. Because I have met some seemingly bright people fall into the delusionary state of “think it and it will happen” I thought I would put down my thoughts on what it really takes to have abundance in your life. The assumption here is that a person with this “wish syndrome” is lacking in these very important tools needed to truly achieving their abundance.

1. Check Your Attitude.
While “wishing” for abundance is not a prescribed method of achieving it, having a positive attitude of success is. The first thing to do is stop complaining and being negative about your situation. You might not even think you are being negative, but if you look at what you do when there is stress in your life, you might find yourself wallowing in your problems and not focusing on a solution or action plan. You also most likely have a group of people who throw you a pity party every time something goes wrong, which if you are hanging with these types (see Associate with the Right People), is more often than not. You do this because you want to feel better about yourself, instead of actually making yourself better. Sadly, this pattern throws you into a negative downward spiral that is hard to break free of unless you stop associating with negative people who are essentially emotionally stunting you and your success.

One of the biggest things the screws up your future is your reliving your past dysfunctional relationships. You cannot let the past fuck up your future. In most cases, people who want abundance have never dealt with the baggage they are carrying from the horrific relationships they had with their parents, or siblings or spouses. They where conditioned to behave and believe in a certain “set of rules of behavior” and those dysfunctional episodes creep up into their present day life and totally circumvent any chance of true success or abundance. Without some serious soul searching that can retrain you thinking or getting some professional counseling, they are doomed to keep repeating behaviors learned in days gone by that sabotage anything they are doing in the present.

One thing that seems to be a constant with people “wishing” for abundance is that they have in the past blamed everything externally to them for their lack of abundance, and believe that if they can control that, then the universe will be right and happiness with come their way. Grow up! There is no one to blame but yourself for the situation you are in. If you cannot change how you think or feel, then get help to do so. In the meantime, here are some tips that might help you move away for a delusional view of abundance, and apply a more realistic on. First, admit that you might not be happy and that you are thinking wealth will make you happy. It will not. Only you being happy will make you happy. You will not be able to change anything unless you come to the realization that something needs to change, and that is you. Stop the cycle of wishing things were different and take control of your thoughts and reactions to events and people. In most cases, you are projecting your fears and insecurities you developed long ago onto other people and situations, and now you have to learn how to stop that. Yes, this takes work, but it is well worth it.

Next realize that instead of believing in a mystical force, understand that optimism is a powerful force that you can chose. We are not born with a positive or negative attitude, but over time, it becomes formed from the perspective of you experiences. A positive attitude can be developed with practice. As an example, no matter how difficult the challenge, you CAN come up with 3 to 5 aspects of it from a positive point of view. Also, be kinder to yourself. Just because you have made some mistakes and are not where you want to be, it is not the end of the world. With some effort, you can start to control your destiny today, and that begins with attitude. A good start is to learn to say positive affirmations about your good features and accomplishments on a daily basis. You can also locate a quotation or passage that elicits a positive feeling in you every day, and say it aloud as often as you can.

And finally, to truly be successful and have abundance, you have to visualize what needs to be done and the end goal you hope to achieve. This is NOT the same as wishing. Essentially, you have to stop reacting and start adhering to a plan of action that needs to be formulated and acted upon. So, this brings me to the next section on putting your brilliant plan to work.

2. Attitude is not everything, action is.
“Action is a great restorer and builder of confidence. Inaction is not only the result, but the cause, of fear,” as Norman Vincent Peale stated. Just wishing for success will never make it happen. The great divider of those who discover abundance and those that do not, is action. Now, before you act, you will need a plan. And a well thought out plan takes some thought and calculating. So, set aside some time to really think about what you can do today to get you to your success down the road. And once you have developed that plan, you will need to adhered to if you ever want a chance of reaching your true abundance. Action is the key to success, but action without a plan is just wasted effort. There is absolutely nothing more important than being proactive.

No amount of positive thinking, reading books, attending seminars, coaching, or counseling will ever substitute for taking action. As a corollary, you gain no real knowledge, perspective or insight until you actually do the things you learn. If you are truly serious about being successful and acquiring your abundance, do not let a single day go by without moving towards a goal you set for yourself. Consistency, the day in and day out routine of practice is the dominant reason behind the success of any individual. Despite the simplicity of this, it is amazing how few people actually excel in putting their ideas and knowledge to action. You must commit to this action, for as William Hutchinson Murray stated, "Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now." When you commit to putting your thoughts and ideas for abundance to action, the universe conspires to make it happen.

3. You have to put in and value time.
OK, you did not develop your personality and idiosyncrasies in a day, and believe it or not, you not going to fix them in one either. If you want to change your self-sabotaging thinking and behaviors, you have to realize that this is going to be more like a marathon than a sprint, and ultimately will be a life-long process. Now, I am not saying you have to spend 8 hours a day working on this, but you do have to dedicate some time everyday on bettering YOU! That could include getting mentoring, centering yourself with meditation, changing your diet, or just finding some time to reflect on what you are doing. As an aside, make sure you get a dose of daily exercise that is strenuous to make you sweat. Not only is it good for your general health, the endorphins help with your mental and emotional well being as well.A healthy body is a temple where you soul can dwell, and sick body is a prison.

This is the REALLY scary part, because you are going to have to change you! In order to get from wishing for abundance to actually achieving it, you are going to have to grow up! The first thing you may have to change is moving from a needy, self-centered person, also known as a taker, to start being a giver. If you believe having a magic ring will bring you abundance, you are a taker. In actuality, when you help others reach their success and abundance, abundance will actually flow to you as well. This is probably that hardest thing you will undertake, but needy people do not bring anything to the table.  It is when others want you to succeed, will you then be successful. And that only happens when you have other people’s interest ahead of yours. Yes, givers get.

The biggest leap will be when you stop looking at problems in you life and instead start look for solutions, and do not depend on someone else to solve them for you. Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems you are facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress. This anxiety you create is essentially reliving failure in the future. When you focus on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and reduces stress.

While you are spending time in developing yourself into a person who can now actually achieve abundance, as opposed to just wishing for it, make sure not to waste time doing things that are not productive to that goal. You must value you time. As Denis Waitley succinctly puts it, “How you spend your time is far more important than all the material possessions you may own or positions you may attain.” Time is everything and “Until you value yourself, you won't value your time. Until you value your time, you won't do anything with it,” as M. Scott Peck puts it so well.

4. Associate with the right people.
If you want to be a winner, do not hang around with losers. Losers bring winners down. Ben Glass notes, “You are the average of the five people you hang out with the most,” so if you are not where you want to be, look at the people you hang around with, and 1, 2, 3 or 5 of them may be blocking your path to abundance. You have to get rid of negative people. You have to get rid of people who just want to take from you. You have to get rid of people who are cra-cra and only bring drama and chaos into your life. I have seen it numerous times that a person with the potential to be a winner is associating with a cadre of losers, and they are stuck in the loser twilight zone. As Dan Cotter states, “Winners make sacrifices, losers make excuses.” Your sacrifice will be jettisoning those losers.

This is the area where most people tend to sell themselves short. They feel like because they have known someone most of their life or are their parents or live with someone or are married, they have no way to control the chaos and the drama. This could not be further from the truth. Once you begin to identify those people who are blocking you from your abundance, you begin to recognize this dysfunctional behavior and remove it from your life. It starts with establishing a boundary which the toxic people cannot cross and drag you into emotional chaos. Maintaining an emotional distance requires awareness. You cannot stop someone from pushing your buttons if you do not recognize when it is happening. Sometimes you will find yourself in situations where you will need to regroup and choose the best way forward. This is fine and you should not be afraid to buy yourself some time to do so. But remember, in the end, your destiny lies in avoiding these emotional vampires.

The most important thing you can do is to have joy in your life and not let others limit yours. Unfortunately, if you your sense of pleasure and satisfaction are derived from the opinions of other people, you are no longer the master of your own happiness. When emotionally intelligent and mature people feel good about something that they have accomplished, they will not let anyone’s opinions or derisions take that away from them. While it is impossible to turn off all your feelings of what others think of you, you do not need to be thrown into that emotional slippery slope of self-doubt, insult or hurt. Learn how to always take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what toxic people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within.

Finally, while getting rid of toxic people is important, since this is virgin territory for you, it is vitally important that you associate with other winners and learn from them. As Anthony Robbins says, “If you want to be successful, find someone who has achieved the results you want and copy what they do and you'll achieve the same results.” At first, finding and being able to associate with a winner will not be easy. But one thing most winners are, are givers and if you ask them for help, they most likely will help. But if you act like a loser and begin to just take and not offer anything to them, you will quickly find yourself on the outside again. When you approach successful people, tell them your plans and long term goals (and one of them better be to be helping other people succeed), and you may be surprised how quickly you are given entry into the winner’s circle.

Good luck and remember as I paraphrase William Ernest Henley, “It matters not how straight the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll. You are the master of your fate: you are the captain of your soul.” May the abundance you so desire now be manifested by your thoughts, actions, and associations. You can realize your dream of abundance if you take the steps above, and it starts with one step.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Give and Take

As a rule, I have been applying the rules of Adam Grant's great book "Give and Take" to the people I meet for some time now. I have intrinsically known about the three types of people he talks about (givers, takers and matches) in his book for some time, as I have stayed away from takers and matchers (people who do you a favor it you do them a favor) for the last 10 years. What I did not know is that givers are both the most successful and least successful people on the spectrum. The difference between the two types is givers is: one type only gives to other givers, or is a strategic giver. The other type, ends up giving to takes and matches and usually gets burned out due in part that you can never fill up either party with giving. I highly recommend anyone who wants to be successful in life to read the book. 

Of course my advice to anyone is to stay away from the takers and matchers.  The are usually drama obsessed and only will suck the life force out of you and lead you to your eventual failure in life.  I like to call them emotional vampires.  Eventually, you will be just a corpse if you associate with them.

To help you understand this concept of givers and takes, I thought a little story about the subject was in order. Try to see if you can figure out who the takers are? "Blessed are those that can give without remembering, and take without forgetting."
One day a florist went to a barber for a haircut. After the cut, he asked about his bill, and the barber replied, 'I cannot accept money from you, I'm doing community service this week.' The florist was pleased and left the shop. When the barber went to open his shop the next morning, there was a 'thank you' card and a dozen roses waiting for him at his door.

Later, a cop comes in for a haircut, and when he tries to pay his bill, the barber again replied, 'I cannot accept money from you, I'm doing community service this week.' The cop was happy and left the shop. The next morning when the barber went to open up, there was a 'thank you' card and a dozen donuts waiting for him at his door.

Then a Congressman came in for a haircut, and when he went to pay his bill, the barber again replied, 'I cannot accept money from you. I'm doing community service this week.' The Congressman was very happy and left the shop. The next morning, when the barber went to open up, there were a dozen Congressmen lined up waiting for a free haircut.
And that, my friends, illustrates the fundamental difference between the citizens of our great country and the politicians who run it.

BOTH POLITICIANS AND DIAPERS NEED TO BE CHANGED OFTEN AND FOR THE SAME REASON!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Men and Women

I am big fan of gender equality, be it in wage compensation, recognition, and respect, but even if we do ever achieve these, men and women will always be different..and viva the difference!! Yes, men are men and women are women and never the twain shall meet, except when the fall in love.  With that said, I feel women do have to be extraordinary JUST to be recognized by most men, and that is sad.  But why? Well, it is because men have TOTALLY different priorities to women, and I think this story will explain why.
One day a man decided to retire...

He booked himself on a Caribbean cruise and proceeded to have the time of his life, that is, until the ship sank.

He soon found himself on an island with no other people, no supplies, nothing, only bananas and coconuts.

After about four months, he is lying on the beach one day when the most gorgeous woman he has ever seen rows up to the shore. In disbelief, he asks, "Where did you come from? How did you get here?"
She replies, "I rowed over from the other side of the island where I landed when my cruise ship sank."

"Amazing," he notes. "You were really lucky to have a row boat wash up with you."

"Oh, this thing?" explains the woman. "I made the boat out of some raw material I found on the island. The oars were whittled from gum tree branches. I wove the bottom from palm tree branches, and the sides and stern came from a Eucalyptus tree."

"But, where did you get the tools?"

"Oh, that was no problem," replied the woman. "On the south side of the island, a very unusual stratum of alluvial rock is exposed. I found that if I fired it to a certain temperature in my kiln, it melted into ductile iron I used that to make tools and used the tools to make the hardware."

The guy is stunned.

"Let's row over to my place," she says. So, after a short time of rowing, she soon docks the boat at a small wharf.
As the man looks to shore, he nearly falls off the boat. Before him is a long stone walk leading to an exquisite bungalow painted in blue and white. While the woman ties up the rowboat with an expertly woven hemp rope, the man can only stare ahead, dumb struck. As they walk into the house, she says casually,
"It's not much, but I call it home. Sit down, please."
"Would you like a drink?"

"No! No thank you," the man blurts out, still dazed. "I can't take another drop of coconut juice."

"It's not coconut juice," winks the woman "I have a still. How would you like a Pina Colada?"

Trying to hide his continued amazement, the man accepts, and they sit down on her couch to talk. After they exchange their individual survival stories, the woman announces, "I'm going to slip into something more comfortable. Would you like to take a shower and shave? There's a razor in the bathroom cabinet upstairs."

No longer questioning anything, the man goes upstairs into the bathroom. There, in the cabinet is a razor made from a piece of tortoise bone. Two shells honed to a hollow ground edge are fastened on to its end inside a swivel mechanism.

"This woman is amazing," he muses. "What's next?" When he returns, she greets him wearing nothing but some small flowers on tiny vines, each strategically positioned, she smelled faintly of gardenias. She then beckons for him to sit down next to her.

"Tell me," she begins suggestively, slithering closer to him, "We've both been out here for many months. You must have been lonely. There's something I'm certain you feel like doing right now, something you've been longing for, right?" She stares into his eyes.

He can't believe what he's hearing. "You mean..." he swallows excitedly as tears start to form in his eyes,

"You've built a Golf Course?" 
So, now you know.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Old Cunning Canine

When most people think of start ups they think of a couple of young kids working in a garage or basement (or now Starbucks), eking out a living until they are purchased for billions of dollars, but this is more fiction than reality. As published in Time's March 14th, 2013 issue, according to research by Vivek Wadhwa, an academic and tech entrepreneur, and the Kauffman Foundation, the average age of successful start-up founders of start-ups and other high-growth industries was 40. And high-growth start-ups are almost twice as likely to be launched by people over 55 as by people 20 to 30. How can that be? 

Well firstly, most startups take founders with multiple skill sets and know-how. Yes, dreaming is important, but execution is paramount to success. As an example of this, I thought I would share a story about an old dog and if you can draw the conclusion about age.
A wealthy old lady decides to go on a safari in Africa, taking her faithful aged poodle named Cuddles along for company. One day the poodle starts chasing butterflies and before long, Cuddles discovers that he's lost. Wandering about, he notices a leopard heading rapidly in his direction with the intention of having lunch. The old poodle thinks, "Oh, oh! I'm in deep trouble now!" Noticing some bones on the ground close by, she immediately settles down to chew on the bones with her back to the approaching cat.

Just as the leopard is about to leap, the old poodle exclaims loudly, "Boy, that was one delicious leopard! I wonder if there are any more around here?" Hearing this, the young leopard halts his attack in mid-strike, a look of terror comes over him and he slinks away into the trees. "Whew!", says the leopard, "That was close! That old poodle nearly had me!"


Meanwhile, a monkey who had been watching the whole scene from a nearby tree, figures he can put this knowledge to good use and trade it for protection from the leopard. So off he goes, but the old poodle sees him heading after the leopard with great speed, and figures that something must be up. The monkey soon catches up with the leopard, spills the beans and strikes a deal for himself with the leopard.

The young leopard is furious at being made a fool of and says, "Here, monkey, hop on my back and see what's going to happen to that conniving canine!"

Now, the old poodle sees the leopard coming with the monkey on his back and thinks, "What am I going to do now?", but instead of running, the dog sits down with his back to his attackers, pretending he hasn't seen them yet, and just when they get close enough to hear, the old poodle says: "Where's that damn monkey? I sent him off an hour ago to bring me another leopard!"
Moral of this story...

Don't mess with old farts...age and treachery will always overcome youth and skill! Bullshit and brilliance only come with age and experience!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Most Overused Marketing Terms

A few years ago, Jason Cohen posted in his blog (A Smart Bear)  "Authentic" is dead, in which he goes on to say that some words have been used so often, that they have actually lost all meaning.  Well, that got me thinking, since I help a lot of start ups, and do a lot of marketing, branding, and word-smithing along the way, I thought I would build upon Jason's observations and do my own little survey.  So, I compiled a list of 43 words (see THE LIST below) that I see used over, and over, and over again, and asked my little network of people (colleagues, friends, business partners, etc.), what they though were the most overused.  Well, 1351 people responded, and out of the list of 43, there are five that stand out as the most overused. With 1351 respondents the percentage indication is in parenthesis.  The most overused terms  include: Innovative (54.5%); Cost Effective (43.0%); Low Hanging Fruit (42.8%); Out of the Box (42.6%); and Best of Breed (41.8%).

Most of the other terms highlighted as being overused between 33% to 10% of the time. The least overused terms include WOW, Single Source, Prestigious, Maven, Craftsmanship and Fanatical Support.  Needless to say, these results are not at all what I expected, but are interesting nonetheless.


Click here if you want to see the spreadsheet.

THE LIST
All-Star
Authentic
Best of Breed
Convergence of ____
Core Competency
Cost Effective
Craftsmanship
Disruptive
Easy
Expert
Fanatical Support
Fast
Generation X
Genuine
Guru
Innovative
Insight / Insightful
Low Hanging Fruit
Maven
Ninja
One Stop Shop
Open
Organic
Out of the Box
Paradigm Shift
Powerful
Prestigious
Profound
Proven
Quality
Reliable
Responsive
Revolutionary
Rock Star
Secure
Simple
Single Source
Solution
Synergy
Transparent
Unique
Win-Win
WOW

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Life in the 1500s

The great thing about history, is that we do NOT necessarily need to repeat it and many of the customs, traditions and idioms come directly from a history long ago forgotten. Like, did you ever wonder where the phrase "Piss Poor" come from? 
 
A long time ago, they used to use urine to tan animal skins, so families used to all pee in a pot. And then once it was full it was taken and sold to the tannery. If you had to do this to survive you were "Piss Poor". But worse than that were the really poor folk who couldn't even afford to buy a pot. They "didn't have a pot to piss in" and were the lowest of the low.

So....The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to be. Here are some facts about the1500s:

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. Hence the custom is still used today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. And last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, Don't throw the baby out with the Bath water.

Houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying. “It's raining cats and dogs” was used during a downpour. There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house.

This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor of the hut or house was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying, “Dirt poor.” The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, the thresh would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance way. Hence the term threshold was used.

(Getting quite an education, aren't you?)

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. So came the rhyme, “Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old.”

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could “bring home the bacon.”

They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and “chew the fat.”

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the “upper crust.”

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a wake was established.

England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house, and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the graveyard shift.) to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be “saved by the bell” or was considered a ”dead ringer.”
 
And that's the truth...Now, whoever said History was boring!!

Friday, January 16, 2015

What Makes a Great Boss?

As a young boy, I was sent away to Military School and there began my journey on discovery of what makes a good leader, and what does not.  Of course we had to study many of the great leaders of history, but more importantly, when put into positions of power, I discovered that just having rank, did not necessarily give your power over individuals. From that time until now, I have realized that in order to get anything done, and done well, involves leadership, and being a boss is no exception.  Of course, good bosses have strong organizational skills, are smart, creative, have solid decision-making skills and they get things done; exceptional bosses have that and something more. 

It is not the what, but the how, that make good bosses great bosses.  It is how they take care of the people around them, the esprit d corps they create, the joy they bring to any endeavor and the passion they instill to all they meet.  Great leadership makes ordinary people into extraordinary people, and being a great boss is no different. Yes, a good boss can hit the numbers consistently, but a great boss will make you feel like you can conquer the world no matter what obstacles are in your way.

I am a big believer in what separates people’s success is leadership.  And being a great boss is all about mastering leadership skills, and leadership is all about what you can do for the people who work for you.  Every endeavor, large or small, rises and falls on leadership. “The ultimate leader is one who is willing to develop people to the point that they eventually surpass him or her in knowledge and ability,” as Fred A. Manske Jr. said some time ago.

Still, an exceptional boss does not see it as a popularity contest, but does recognize that their success is directly tied to the people that work with him/her.  In this article, I will list what are the “10 things” an extraordinary boss gives or does to develop and promote others and sets them apart for all those other bosses you wish you never had, and we ALL have had a few of them.

1.  Gives freedom and power
I like to say a great boss gives love, yes, love, and what is love but giving freedom and power, not extract control and possession.  This might seem like an odd concept in the button down world of corporate America, since most organizations are built on optimizing profits, processes, efficiencies and procedures. They are about the tangible, and I am talking about an intangible.  While a skilled boss can maximize the tangibles better than most people, they trust the fact that micromanagement is the worst thing you can do to promote those around them.  Employees are best engaged and empowered when there is a large sense of trust, autonomy and independence.  Elements that are essential in, well love.

Bosses that expect conformity and toeing the corporate line may initially get short term goal results, but as John F. Kennedy said, “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth,” and over the long haul, those gains will be lost to employee dissatisfaction.  True autonomy and freedom breeds innovation, even in heavily process-oriented industries like manufacturing and piece part assembly. No matter what the task, people can always find a more eloquent way to do a thing if they are given some incentive or an environment to do so.

So, a great boss first and foremost trusts himself and has the confidence to trust those around him. This trust is then imparted to her employees by giving them the autonomy and independence to work the way they work best, not the necessarily the way she (the boss) does, and those empowered employees will find ways to do their jobs better than possibly could have been imagined.

2. Does not give or except excuses
If you want to be a great boss, you should head the words for the founder of the American Red Cross, Florence Nightingale, said, “I attribute my success to this: I never gave or took any excuse.”

A great boss really does walk the talk.  Vince Lombardi, the fabled football coach once said, “If you'll not settle for anything less than your best, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish in your lives.”  A great boss gives her best all the time, and leads by example.  She will not expect an employee or colleague to do anything she would not do.  At the same time, she accepts responsibility for failures, and understands all people makes mistakes, but will not tolerate excuses, but will appreciate appropriate corrective action and effort. 

In addition, as Arnold Glasow stated, “A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.”  An exceptional boss is willing to give undo credit to others when there is success, and take the responsibility when failure does happen.

3.  Gives clear goals and expectations
As Henry Ford said when asked about the difficulties in starting Ford Motor Company, “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” And while a good boss realizes that real autonomy and independence is important in every job, but without clear stated goals and expectations most employees would be like a ship adrift on the sea. A great boss sets specific achievable goals and a gives a clear vision of how those goals can be achieved, and encourages those individuals to do so. 

 And of course, change happens! When an exceptional boss changes, a goal, or a standard, or a deadline, or a guideline, she communicates the change beforehand.  And when that is not possible, she takes the time to explain why she made the decision she made and what she expects in the future.

4. Stretches Your Potential
One of the most important aspects of being a great boss is setting goals that stretch a person, but at the same time are achievable. As Harriet Braiker says, “Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing,” is probably the best way of saying that setting a goal that is out of reach, can have the opposite effect.  Almost everyone is competitive; and you will find often the best employees are extremely competitive, especially with themselves. Meaningful targets can create a sense of purpose and add a little meaning to even the most repetitive tasks.

Plus, stretch goals can be exhilarating. Without a meaningful goal to shoot for, work is just well, work; and no one likes just working.  Still, a great boss will remember the wisdom of Thomas Aquinas, “If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever.” You need to discover new lands if you want to get anywhere and be successful.  An exceptional boss is one who makes work more like a pirate adventure than an trip on the Bounty.

5. Gives a true sense of purpose
President Richard M. Nixon has a great quote about purpose, “Until he has been part of a cause larger than himself, no man is truly whole.” Everyone likes to feel a part of something bigger than themselves. Everyone loves to feel that sense of teamwork and esprit de corps that turns a group of individuals into a real team, and that team into a winning team.

Great bosses understand that the best missions of a team or organization involve making a real impact on the lives of the people you serve. They let employees know what they want to achieve for the business, for their customers, and even their community. And if they can, let them create a few missions of their own. Feeling a true purpose starts with knowing what you stand for and to care about and, more importantly, why to care, and that you want to build something unique and long lasting. This is echoed by John D. Rockefeller when he said, “I had no ambition to make a fortune. Mere money-making has never been my goal, I had an ambition to build.”

6. Makes everyone feel important
“Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make me feel important’,” so says Mary Kay Ash the founder of Mary Kay cosmetics and responsible of creating more women millionaires than anyone. This sentiment not only works for customers, but for your employees and teammates and great bosses know this empirically.

I believe a great boss needs to treasure the people who are willing and able to help you reach your goals. Engaged employees have ideas; take away those opportunities for them to make suggestions, or instantly disregard their ideas without consideration, and they immediately disengage. On the contrary, a great boss will listen to those ideas.  As Bryant McGill states, “One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”

That's why exceptional bosses make it incredibly easy for employees to offer suggestions. They ask leading questions and they probe gently for clarification and insight. They help employees feel comfortable proposing new ways to get things done or in abandoning the old ways that no longer do. When an idea is not feasible, they always take the time to explain why it will not work at this time, and encourage them to keep making suggestions. Great bosses know that employees who make suggestions care about the company, so they ensure those employees know their input is valued and appreciated.

7. Focuses on the team more than the tasks
Andrew Carnegie knew a thing or two about teamwork and stated, “Teamwork is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”  While everyone works for a paycheck, it does not mean they do not want to work for something more. In actuality, they want to work with and for team of people they respect and admire, and with and for people who respect and admire them.  Great leadership fosters that teamwork in the form of leadership.

One of the greatest football coaches of all time, Vince Lombardi talks about this when he stated, “Leadership is based on a spiritual quality; the power to inspire, the power to inspire others to follow.” He knew want it took to make a championship team work. That is why a kind word, a quick discussion about family, an informal conversation to ask if a colleague needs any help may be much more important than group meetings or formal evaluations. Teams are personal, and a well running team creates a true sense of connection. Exceptional bosses have that leadership ability to appreciate the person, not just the worker, and the individual effort that makes the team work.  This is where the concept of a force multiplier comes to play.

8. Acts more like a servant than a tyrant
One of my favorite quotations on leadership is from Lao Tzu, “In wishing to be above men, put yourself by words below them, and, wishing to be before them, place yourself behind them.” What this means, is that in order to get employees to serve you, you must first be a servant to them.
 
Most people can understand a boss who is strict, demanding, and quick to offer (not always positive) feedback, as long as he or she treats everyone fairly. While great bosses understand everyone is different, and act accordingly, they also realize that showing consistency and fairness is the key to getting the respect and agreement from the rank and file.  Bosses who play favorites and politics, will never elicit the respect or effort out of their team, no matter what they try to do to encourage them since they see it as self-serving.   

 9. Praises in Public, Mentors in Private
Nobody is perfect, and few are exceptional. Every employee needs constructive feedback. Good bosses give that feedback but great bosses understand something more.  That in order to motivate they understand that praise is what raises the bar.  In the words of Dale Carnegie, “Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise, and people will cherish your words and treasure them and repeat them over a lifetime.”  They also know that if criticism is warranted, that you ALWAYS do it in private and does not just criticizes, but as a mentor who encourages whenever possible.  As the old saying goes, give a dog a good name.

Everybody, even a relatively poor performer, does something well. Every employee deserves praise and appreciation.  To quote Ovid, “The spirited horse, which will try to win the race of its own accord, will run even faster if encouraged.” It is easy to recognize the best employees because they are continuously and consistently doing awesome things. The trick that great bosses and leaders do is make ordinary people into extraordinary people with a bit a praise and constant encouragement.

It might be difficult to find reasons to recognize an employee who simply meets standards, but that is not the point. The object is to make them feel valued, and a few words of recognition, both in private and especially in public, may be the spark an average performer needs to start becoming a great performer.

10. Always has YOUR future in mind
I believe the greatest ability to possess is the ability to find, develop, and promote abilities in other people. A good boss realizes that every job should have the potential to lead to greater things, be it in the group or elsewhere. Exceptional bosses take the time to develop employees for the jobs they someday hope to land, even if the jobs are with another company.  They not only support their employees, but give them personal insight on how to further their OWN careers.

As the late great actor, Tony Curtis said, “Service to others is the rent we pay for time on this earth.”  So, how can that great boss serve the greater well being of their employees?  Well, a good start is to ask what he employees hope to do someday. Employees will only care about you and your business after you first show you care about them. One of the best ways to do so is to show that while you certainly have hopes for your company's future, you also have hopes for your employees' futures as well.  A good boss might pay lip service to this, but an exceptional boss will go out of her way to help in the development and expansion of every person’s potential.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Traits of an Entrepreneur

I will begin and end this article with two quotations. The first is from Edward Rogers:

"You don't deserve to be called an entrepreneur unless you've mortgaged your house to the business."
--Edward S. (Ted) Rogers 


This one sentence pretty much says it all. Entrepreneurs are not necessary gamblers, but they are willing to put everything they own, or go all in, in order to make it happen. In the classical sense an entrepreneur is define as anyone who has possession of a new enterprise, endeavor, venture or idea, and assumes significant accountability for the inherent risks associated with the development, growth, and outcome. He or she is an organizer who combines land, labor, material resources, and/or capital to create and market new goods, products, or services. The term "entrepreneur" is loaned from the French and was first defined by the Irish economist Richard Cantillon, where the term was applied to the type of persona who was willing to take upon themselves a new venture or enterprise and accepts full responsibility for the outcome.

I have read hundreds of articles about what constitutes an entrepreneur or what training you need to be an entrepreneur or what classes will make you an entrepreneur. Well, I have to tell you that being an entrepreneur is a little like combining an artist, athlete, general, and magician. In my humble opinion, entrepreneurship, just like creativity, cannot be taught. Entrepreneurship is not about a class you take in college or a course at some training center, it must be experienced. It must be learned through the trial and error of starting, growing, nurturing, and hopefully succeeding in a undertaking that has never been done before, and even then, not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. Some people mistake having characteristics of an entrepreneur as being an entrepreneur, but that does not make you an entrepreneur. That is like saying all tall people are good at basketball. It might give them an advantage, but does not necessarily make them a basketball player no more than owning a piano makes you a pianist.

In addition, if you are starting a business that involves just doing something that someone else has already done does NOT make you an entrepreneur. Case in point, franchisees Lawyers, Doctors, etc. Sorry, it does make you a businessman or woman, but not an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship, by its very nature, implies and demands that you are creating something that has not been done before.

A former Senator from South Carolina, Jesse Helms, once quipped about pornography, "I cannot tell you what pornography is, but I will recognize it when I see it." So too in a great way, is this true for entrepreneurship. Many people consider themselves entrepreneurs, when in fact, they are just business people, or worse yet, employees. I am not saying that these individuals cannot possess the characteristics of an entrepreneur. They can. They are just not entrepreneurs.

So what are these characteristics? A good friend of mine, Suzy Drapkin, who has worked in human resources for numerous years and runs a career placement firm in Austin, TX, made a presentation about the profile characteristics of an entrepreneur that was pretty inclusive. In her presentation she stated that the more of these characteristics an entrepreneur has, the better their chances for success, but that even having all of these characteristics does not guarantee your success. While all these characteristics do not mean you are necessarily an entrepreneur, they are essential to the success of an entrepreneur. They include being:

Creative
Striving
Perseverance
Self-Confident
Intuitive
Independent
Self-Motivated
Optimistic
Focused
Forward-Looking
Decisive
Enterprising
Disciplined
Cooperative
Results Oriented
Energetic
Persuasive
Organized

Not having these characteristics does not mean you will not be successful (wow, three negatives in one sentence), it just means you might have to surround yourself with someone who does have them (this gets into another topic of team building, which I will not go into here).

While these characteristics help an entrepreneur when they have to wear the multiple hats of salesman, leader, confessor, cheerleader, foreman, scientist, accountant, and artist; two other characteristics of entrepreneurs that should be included are the ability to endure failure (resilient) and the ability to go the first mile alone (fearless). There is a big difference from being able to endure criticism and failure. No, failure is something entirely different. Incredibly, most successful entrepreneurs failed a lot, in a large part because they were trying something that was never attempted or done before. The successful entrepreneurs learn from their mistakes, take those lessons, adapt, and then try again with something new and difference. Failure is just a mile marker on their way to success.

While in some way, each of the characteristics can be honed through practice, training, and experience, there is one that cannot, but almost without fail, every successful entrepreneur says that needed in order to be make whatever they were doing a reality. It is a intangible characteristic of an entrepreneur but it is one that actually entrepreneurs believe they possess and that is the ability to be lucky. Yep, luck, just being at the right place at the right time, coincidentally running into someone you needed to meet, or just getting noticed by someone important, is probably the biggest factor in being an entrepreneur which cannot actually be controlled but is vitally important. Some studies have been conducted that actually say that some forms of luck can be "helped" to happen, and as a rule, successful entrepreneurs overwhelming believe they are lucky.

So, there it is. Entrepreneurship is an experience to be learned, and helped along if you have a certain set of characteristics, and is really dependent on luck. Still interested? Maybe this quotation can help sum it up:

"Entrepreneurship does not build character; it reveals character."
--Jeffrey Fry