Be Thankful and Be Happy

On Thursday, November 28, the United States celebrates the National Holiday of Thanksgiving. It’s the one day during the year where we officially stop to reflect and give thanks for all that we have. 

One day. That unfortunately is a stretch for some folks. Those are the people who struggle to see the good in anything. If they won the lottery they may very well complain about the taxes they are expected to pay. They just don’t appear to be very happy people. 

On the other hand, there are people for whom one day a year isn’t nearly enough. They are incredibly thankful people. They see the good in almost any situation. They are the same people who look at a tremendous challenge and see only opportunity. They just appear to be happy people. 

Think about that for a moment. 

People who struggle to be thankful also seem to struggle to be happy. Thankful people are happy people. I don’t know if you must be happy to be thankful or you must be thankful to be happy but it really doesn’t matter. It appears that happiness and thankfulness go hand in hand. 

As you come to the end of 2013 and look forward towards 2014 take or make the time to seriously reflect on what you’ve accomplished. Think about the challenges you’ve overcome and the rewards you’ve received. Focus on what you have NOW, and not on what you wish you had. Reflect on the mere fact that you have the tools required to read this likely makes you one of the wealthiest people in the world. You’re blessed, if you haven’t taken the time to realize that then realize it now.

You’ll never be happier than YOU allow yourself to be. In this, the most wonderful time of the year decide to be incredibly happy, every minute of the day. 

Do You Deserve a Raise?

Did you pay attention to the title of this post? It isn’t do you WANT a raise and it isn’t do you NEED a raise. The question at hand is do you DESERVE a raise.

I should begin by sharing my own philosophy regarding raises. If you’ve accepted a job and the functions of that job remain pretty much as the were when you started then you most likely don’t deserve a raise. You certainly aren’t owed one. Private companies are not required to give you a raise just because it costs more to live. They give you a raise to keep you from leaving, the better the employment market the better the raises they give out.

You accepted a position knowing full well what the compensation was. If the company that hired you hasn’t changed the job or your responsibilities in the job why should you suddenly be paid more? If the company suddenly informed you that they were cutting your pay, just cause, you would be outraged. Well, it works both ways. 

Now, let’s back up to that wants and needs deal. Your odds of receiving a raise just because you need one are not very good. Telling your boss that you need more money to maintain a lifestyle that you can’t afford isn’t very smart. It’s as if you were to walk into work and announce “I’m a crappy money manager so give me more to manage poorly.” We would never say it like that but you should know a whole lot of managers will hear it that way. 

Wanting a raise is also a poor reason to ask for one. Wanting a raise just because a co-worker received one is even worse. You have no real idea of why that co-worker received a raise. This is YOUR raise request and the reasons for it need to focus solely on you. In nearly every single instance comparing yourself to a co-worker will go poorly for you. You look like a whiner, especially if your boss believes your co-worker is doing a better job than you. 

There are times however when asking for a raise is appropriate. If your responsibilities have greatly expanded or you have taken on tasks that were never talked about during the interview process then you darn well should be asking for a raise. Just make sure you do it the right way! 

Plan on talking to your manager as early as three months before salary reviews. Don’t wait to “see what you get” and then try to swim upstream to get a decision reversed. Proactive people get raises, those who wait it out don’t. 

Make a completely honest assessment of your performance. Prepare a list of your accomplishments over the past several months. The more detailed information about your successes the better.

Gather market data for similar positions. It’s a good idea to know what the pay scale is for your position. Spend some time researching the average salary for your job. Try to get as close as possible to an accurate comparison by looking at organizations in the same location and of similar size. Your HR department likely already has this info so you should have it too.

Map your skills against what the organization values. Let your manager know that you, like all business professionals, are aware of the market value of your position and you believe you are deserving of a raise.

Do you like getting ultimatums? Neither does your boss or company. Never, never go in with guns blazing, almost any approach you can use is better than that. This is a business discussion, not a gripe session. Keep your request positive and know going in exactly what amount your raise needs to be in order to be acceptable. 

If you deserve a raise and don’t get it then you have some decisions to make, just remember, there is more to success than the size of your paycheck. 

The Problem with Planning – Part Two

In part one of this post we laid out the first four steps in an 8-step planning process. Those 4 steps represent a fair amount of effort and thought, more than the average person puts into an entire planning process. 

Despite that effort and thought you know what? You STILL don’t have a plan! Those first four steps are only about preparing to plan, they are not the plan. 

In part two of this post we’ll finally get to the actual plan. Before we begin let’s review. Here are the first 4 steps in the process:

  • Develop a realistic picture of the “as is” or your current situation.
  • Paint yourself a picture of the “should be” or your desired situation. 
  • Determine the investment you are willing to make in order to successfully execute your plan. This investment should be thought of in terms of both financial and time.
  • Set short range, medium range and long range goals that will stretch you while remaining realistic and obtainable. 

Now, let’s talk about the remaining 4 steps.

Next we determine our timetable. One of the reasons many plans fail is that people get behind with deadlines and they just simply quit or go “off plan” and begin winging it. That’s almost as bad as having no plan at all. Your timetable, when closely followed will and should put pressure on you to stay on task. It provides you with a guideline to evaluate the effectiveness of your plan while you’re working your way through it. 

Your timetable is what will provide your feedback as to your level of productivity. Successful people all understand this irrefutable fact: there is a huge difference between being productive and being busy. If you’re not moving forward with your plan and getting closer to at least one of your goals then you are not being productive, no matter how busy you are.

The next step is key and everything you’ve done up to now is just to prepare you for this step. Step 6 is prepare your plan. This is where you use all the information, goals, and timetables to actually construct your plan. This step requires tremendous specificity and detail. What EXACTLY will you do and when EXACTLY will you do it. When EXACTLY will you start and when EXACTLY will you finish. 

This step includes who and what your resources will be. How you will acquire those resources. How you will measure your progress. How you will know for certain the objectives of the plan have been met. Who will help hold you accountable to follow your plan.  You need to have concrete answers in this step. Everything you leave to chance provides the chance that your plan will fail. 

This step is plum full of actionable items. Action is the key to the success of any plan. 

No plan succeeds until it is put into action and that’s step 7 – Implement your plan. It is amazing to many how many organizations and people work to develop a plan, often a very good plan, and then never implement it. No plan succeeds until it is put into action. Start slow, but start. You’ll likely have a few bumps but if you’ve done your work in steps 1-5 you’ll have the motivation you need to press on. If you did the work required in step 6 you’ve got the work-arounds required to overcome any setbacks. 

Plans don’t give up on the people who make them, it’s people who give up on their plans.

The final step is follow through. Not just follow through at the end of the plan but all during the plan. This is where a coach or mentor can make such a big difference for you. It’s hard for anyone to be completely objective about their efforts, their progress or even the viability of their plan. You need a mentor to “tell you like it is” in a way that is affirming and motivating. It is why step 5 includes determining up front who will hold you accountable. 

Well, there you have it. An 8-step process that when used fully can go a long way towards helping you achieve success in whatever you choose to do. There are no shortcuts in this process, you should either do it all or don’t bother doing any of it. 

Successful people plan, they know that even when the plan doesn’t work as designed proper planning always pays dividends. If you truly want success then do what successful people do….plan!

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The Problem With Planning – Part One

Most people don’t have plans. You probably disagree with that or at least disagree for yourself. You have plans! Most everyone says they have plans but the reality is that most people don’t have plans. You probably don’t really have plans either. 

You may have ideas, dreams and wishes but none of those are plans. You may even have goals, those goals may even be written down. But goals aren’t plans either. In fact, one of the primary reasons people fail to achieve their goals is that they don’t have a plan to achieve them. Real plans require real work.

That’s the problem with planning!

If you’re not spending at least a part of nearly everyday, yes everyday, on planning them you’re not doing enough planning. It’s no coincidence that the most successful people also happen to be the best planners. Successful people have a plan for every area of their life and they also have a plan for when their original plan goes wrong. 

Ever since my years with the Dale Carnegie Organization I’ve used the 8-step planning process taught in their classes.

It begins with a clear and honest understanding of your present situation. What we call the “as is.” Surprisingly this is where most plans get off track. If you don’t know where you are today, or more likely, won’t admit where you are today, then it will be very difficult to get to where you want to go. If you can’t be clear-minded and honest with yourself about your present situation then you can’t be honest with anyone. People will find it very challenging to help you if you can’t or won’t be honest with them.

The next step is called the “should be” or desired situation. This is a realistic take on where you want to be or what you want to achieve. The key word here is “realistic,” no plan succeeds when it’s so far outside the realm of possibility that it becomes almost silly. Push yourself yes, aim high, don’t listen to the people who say it can’t be done. But always remain grounded in realism.

The next step is to determine the investment you’re willing to make in your plan. This may include a cash investment and it most certainly will include a time investment. No matter how cash strapped you may be the time investment is the biggest obstacle for most people. You can scrimp, save and borrow to get the cash. The time is much much harder to come by and no one can borrow you any and you don’t get to save it up. If you’re not committed to making an investment in your plan then you’re not committed to your plan.

Next you need to set some realistic goals. You’ll need 3 types of goals; short range, usually less than 30 days, you’ll need medium range goals, 30 days to a year and long range goals that can go from a year to 10 years or longer. It would be easy to write several posts on the process of goal setting alone but let me give you just a few thoughts here. 

You’ll notice we started this step with “realistic” goals. You should only set goals in areas where you have complete control. If you set goals in areas where “things need to fall into place” in order for you to achieve your goals then you’ll give up the minute “things” fall the wrong way. You should also set goals that are achievable. I don’t mean easy goals, we want our goals to stretch us but the goals must be possibly. It must be able to come about through your actions and effort. Setting a goal of driving your Honda to the moon is a bad goal because nothing you can do will cause that goal to be achieved.  

The goal setting step in this process is critical. When you have attainable goals set you have the motivation required to execute your plan. When you achieve a short range goal you also achieve the motivation to push on to a medium range goal. Without goals to achieve there really is no need for a plan at all and you likely will not feel the urgency to invest the time required to make one. 

The goal setting step is the longest step, the one requiring the greatest investment of time. It is also the most valuable and perhaps the most enjoyable. It’s the most enjoyable because you get to dream a bit in this step. Remember to dream big because big success comes from big dreams. 

In part two of this post we’ll explore the next four steps in this process. Those four steps will help turn your dreams into reality. 

Hearing Isn’t Listening

Just because you’ve been blessed with the sense of hearing does not mean you’ve been blessed with the skill of listening. 

Hearing is in fact one of the five senses. It is merely the act of perceiving sound and receiving sound waves or vibrations through your ear. Unless you’re hearing impaired you likely take that ability for granted. You also seldom stop to think about the difference between hearing someone speak and actually listening to what was said. 

The failure to understand that difference is often a fatal mistake for new and emerging leaders.

Listening is the act of hearing a sound and actually understanding what you hear. It usually requires more than just the sense of hearing. Great communicators are great listeners, they use the sense of hearing, seeing, and sense of touch. 

Great communicators know that listening is a skill that requires you to stop talking long enough to let the sound you hear go through your brain so it can process the meaning of it. 

The best communicators are active listeners. Active listening means also observing what you hear, like the speaker’s body language and emotions, in order to better understand what the speaker is truly saying. 

When we fail to listen we lose the ability to understand and interpret what was said. When we fail to listen we create a communication “gap” and we often fill that gap with our personal bias, judgements and experiences. That’s where the “you said this, no I didn’t” arguments usually come from. 

Hearing will never build a relationship with anyone. If you want to build relationships with anyone you’ll need to listen to them. When people know you’re interested enough to truly listen to them then they will know enough to know that you also truly care.

And oh by the way, don’t kid yourself; if you’re talking you’re most certainly NOT listening.

What Would You do to Succeed?

I would do anything in order to _____________________. Go ahead and fill in the blank for yourself. Have you ever said that to yourself or to someone else? I’ve said it when it was clear to the people around me that it wasn’t true. When I took the time to reflect on what I had said it became obvious to me as well that it wasn’t true. 

That statement is said so often it has almost become just a throw-away line. Something we say when we’re envious for example. It’s something we say when we wish we had the skill, accomplishment or success that someone else has. 

Lots of people say they would give anything at all to succeed. But when you watch them for a while it appears as if they actually wouldn’t give anything at all. They are not willing to do anything to help themselves succeed. When they say they would “do anything” it’s simply not true.

They want a skill, accomplishment, fame, or success but what they don’t want is the effort and commitment it takes to acquire it. 

Lots of people also say they are committed but others see no evidence of that commitment. If I or another coach or trainer were to observe you for a week would we see any outward signs of your commitment? Would we see you doing anything, anything at all, that would indicate you’re serious about making an effort to achieve your coveted goal?

Commitment Requires action! Action, action that leads to success anyway, requires a plan.

Do you have a plan? Have you made a personal investment? Have you made a personal sacrifice? Have you in fact done anything at all to succeed other than want success? I hate to be so blunt but wishing for and complaining about what other people have does not get you anything worthwhile. The reality is if you just sit on your behind and wait, hope and wish you’ll never get close to reaching your potential and earning the success available to you.

If you’re not willing to give anything up or do anything different then you shouldn’t expect anything different or better in return. The truth is, not only would you not “give anything,” apparently you wouldn’t give anything at all.

You need to make a plan, you need to set some goals, you need to have a timeline. You need to have a coach or mentor who will hold you accountable to all of the above.

Time can be your greatest asset or your biggest enemy, it all depends on whether you use it or waste it. Don’t let another day, hour or even minute go by without making a real commitment to take action. 

You can achieve your goals, you can accomplish great things. People and “things” will seem to conspire along the way to try and stop you. Never, never, never become a co-conspirator with them. 

Let other people spout the “I’d give anything” talk while you’re taking the steps required to succeed in your quest.

That’s how successful people do it!  

The Difference Between Managing and Leading

I’ve written about this topic before and since old habits are hard to break I feel a need to continuing writing about it. 

I had the opportunity to spend some time with a long-time friend recently. He is the former CFO of a Fortune 1000 company and the former CEO of a Fortune 500 company. As the conversation often does it turned to various leadership topics. 

He mentioned how the difference between managing and leading was really just a “mirage” and that in fact, there was no difference at all. At first I thought he must be pulling my leg, then I thought he must just be trying to provoke me. Then I finally realized why it was a good idea that he retired when he did.

Believing that managing and leading are one in the same is very, very out-dated thinking. You manage “stuff.” You lead people.

Stuff includes facilities, processes, inventory, capital equipment, and financial matters to name a few. You apply rules and regulations to stuff. If you’re doing something to improve your infrastructure or balance sheet that is most likely managing. 

Only when you’re doing something to improve your people is it truly leading. New computers for your business is NOT leadership. New software is NOT leadership. New vehicles for the sales team is NOT the same as leading your sales team. 

Investing yourself in the future success of the PEOPLE in your organization is leading. People require guidelines, structure, vision, and accountability to succeed. People need someone to care about them as people, not as “human capital.” People need to know they matter to an organization and that what they do makes a difference. They don’t need more rules, policies, and regulations.

Every organization needs both managers and leaders. Sometimes those two very different skill sets can belong to the same person. It should however never be assumed that because someone is a skilled manager that they are or will become a skilled leader. 

It should also never be assumed that because someone is a highly skilled and respected leader that they are automatically a skilled manager.  

Here’s why I believe that it is so important to understand that there is clear difference between these two skills sets: when both skill sets are not present within an organization then the growth of the organization is limited.  

Good organizations understand the difference between managing and leading. Growing organizations will not sacrifice one for the other. Great organizations work strategically to build both. 

Which kind of organization is yours?