Where Success Comes From – Part One

Very successful people aren’t necessary different than less successful people, they just do different things.

Success comes from doing. 

I could leave it at that and this post while very short would still be pretty good. But it’s really not as simple as just doing something to succeed. In order to succeed you must do the right something and you need to do it at the right time. 

Doing something may make you busy but being busy doesn’t make you successful. Doing the right something makes you productive and being productive is very likely to lead to success.

So what are those right “somethings” that successful people do? I’ll share that with you over the course of the this post and the next one. I found the graphic that accompanies these two posts online and I’d give credit to the person who created it if I only knew who it was. While I didn’t create it and despite a few grammatical errors, I think the 12 “somethings” are absolutely spot on. 

Successful people pursue goals. If you walked out of your house in the morning and had no idea where you were going then you would never know when you had arrived. You would never know that you had successfully completed your trip. Working towards success without goals is very much like that. Without goals you’re merely wondering around your day never being certain that what you’re doing will get you where you want to go. Goals, real meaningful, clearly articulated and written goals, are essential in your search for success.

Successful people are productive. They use their goals to plan and organize their day. They know that no matter how busy they may have been if they didn’t do something to get at least a little closer to one of their goals then they were not productive. They don’t fool themselves into thinking a busy day means they accomplished something, they measure their productivity with their goals.

Successful people decide. The have the ability to make decisions and act upon them. They realize that not every decision will be right but they also realize that almost 100% of “non decisions” are wrong. So they get as much information as possible to make their decision, then they act on that decision. Failure to make decisions when a decision is needed will lead directly to failure.

Successful people don’t make emotional decisions. They inform themselves with facts and logic. They seek out advice from those they trust, they use their experience, they use the experience of others, and they are brutality honest with themselves. Successful people know that emotions are temporary and they don’t apply what could be a permanent decision to fast changing circumstances.

Successful people know that good is the enemy of great and that absolute perfection is the enemy of progress. Sometimes they won’t get everything they wanted from their plan but they will move forward anyway. They understand that perfection may yet arrive and it’s okay if it doesn’t come until tomorrow so long as they make progress today.

Successful people embrace the unknown. They are okay with being uncomfortable because they know that comfort hinders growth. They know that in order to succeed they must do things differently than less successful people and that the differences will never stop. Long-term success requires continuous, continuous improvement and they know that all improvement requires change. So change they do!

We’ll finish this two-part post in a few days with the final six “somethings” that successful people do on a regular basis. Until then, do something! 

Emotional Decisions

It’s perfectly fine to make emotional decisions…..so long as you take the emotions out before you decide anything. We humans are impatient people, we’re also a pretty reactionary bunch and when you add emotions into that mix you’ll often find yourself making some pretty poor decisions.

Everything can be going just fine and then, right out of nowhere, you receive some inexplicable information that completely turns your world upside down. You might be shocked, hurt, afraid, unhappy, and even just plain mad. You naturally want to put your world back where it belongs and the sooner the better. When that happens my best advice to you, and myself, is to just take a breath. Maybe several breaths, maybe several thousand breaths.

The best decisions are patient, careful, well crafted decisions, devoid of reaction and certainly with as much emotion removed as possible. Patience requires waiting, making a plan minimizes the tendency to react and talking, thinking, and careful consideration can help diminish the emotion.

It’s very possible, actually quite likely, that when you first receive the shocking information you really don’t have enough information to make a sound decision. Good judgment is a hallmark of effective leadership and emotions mixed with speed tend to remove the “good” from good judgment. 

So slow your roll!

Learn to live upside down for awhile, get to know your new world, inform yourself with facts not opinions, accept advice but decide on your own. Avoid the herd mentality that leads to rushed judgment. Don’t base your new reality on the experiences of others, your positive leadership influence could lead to very different outcome than you first anticipated. 

Not making hasty, poorly thought out decisions is actually the best way for you to maintain some level of control when your world starts spinning. You may not have complete control of where it stops but you can control how and when it stops. Making quick emotional decisions may make you human but it doesn’t make you a leader. Leaders know that control is more likely to come from patience than speed.

Your very human instinct to return to “normal” as soon as possible may be exactly the wrong thing to do. Trust yourself, trust your skills, trust your attitude, and trust your experience to eventually “right your ship.” And learn to embrace “eventually” because not everything needs to be “fixed” the same day it’s broken.

Hang in there and know for certain that a good decision beats an emotional quick decision every single time.

And one more thing….

If this shocking information affects your job remember it’s your job, not your life. You really only lose control of your life when you surrender control of your attitude. Your attitude is your greatest asset in times of turmoil but only when you choose to keep it positive. No one can take that choice from you but you can give it away. Never, never, never give it away.

Managing People

The first thing to keep in mind when managing people is that if you’re doing it then you’re doing it wrong. You’re doing it wrong because you shouldn’t be doing it at all. People will not and can not be managed. 

You manage stuff, stuff without feelings, stuff without opinions, stuff that does not have the ability to think for itself, stuff that doesn’t have emotions. People ain’t stuff! 

With all due respect to some very smart people who say the difference between managing and leading is just semantics I’m sorry to tell them that they are seriously seriously wrong. It’s not a difference of opinion, it’s not just “how you look at it,” and it’s most certainly not merely semantics. The difference between managing and leading is as great as the difference between night and day.

Some people, very very few but some, have the aptitude to both manage and lead. Many people are placed in positions where both skill sets are required and those people struggle mightily. They struggle because the mindset of a manager is so vastly different than the mindset of a leader. 

Managers have subordinates while leaders have followers. Managers seek to control while leaders seek to influence. Managers work with solid data while leaders revel in the abstract. 

Managers use their tenacity to get the job done while leaders are using their imaginations to determine what the job should be. Managers are required to focus on today while leaders are looking ahead to tomorrow and beyond. 

A manager’s thinking typically focuses on how to get the most out of the workers they have. A leader’s thinking is typically focused on how to help their people grow, both professionally and personally. 

A manager “spends time on employees” to ensure requirements are met. A leader “invests time with people” to ensure that their people have the opportunity to excel. 

I throughly dislike the term “human capital” that is so often used by Human Resource professionals. There is nothing actually wrong with the words, it is the mindset that goes with them. The mindset is one of managing people and managing people is truly impossible. The mindset of managing people is actually the cause of most of an organization’s “people problems.”

Those two words should never be next to one another. We manage capital and we lead people. When they two words are used together the capital word “wins” and the people word is either minimized or forgotten altogether. That’s the genesis of many many personnel issues.

For those of you who still think managing and leading are one and the same I’d like you give a motivational talk to your inventory or budget right now and see how they respond. 

If that sounds crazy to you then you get my point…it really is crazy to talk to stuff but it’s no more crazy than trying to manage human beings. You can’t lead things and you can’t manage people because leading and managing are not interchangeable.

Authentic Leaders understand the difference between managing and leading and never try to substitute one for the other. Do you?

Controlling Leadership

One of the biggest leadership myths around is the myth about leadership control. If you buy into the control myth then you likely believe that once you have a position of leadership you will also have substantially more control over people, things, and circumstances than you did before.

You might have a little more but not much and not often.

I see new leaders all the time trying to over control people and situations and it’s almost always a mistake. New leaders try to get their people to think like them, to act like them and to do most everything just like them. They try to exercise their “authority” over their people and they end up with compliant people but not committed ones. 

New leaders (okay, there are a lot of experienced leaders who think this too) believe their people have to do what they are told in the way that they were told to do it. (by the way, they don’t, they merely have to pretend to) They never even try to get their people committed because they are so fascinated with their newfound ability to make people comply. 

They frequently mistake compliance for control. So new leaders tend to make their plans believing that they control much more than they actually do. 

German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke said “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”

I might add that no business plan survives contact with the competition and no personal plan survives contact with other people.

When your plan meets the real world, the real world wins. Very little goes totally as planned. Errors pile up. Mistaken suppositions come back to bite you. The most brilliant plan loses touch with reality. Because complete leadership control is a myth.

The only thing that a leader can truly control is how they react to the uncontrollable. 

When the uncontrollable and unforeseen events happen do you as a leader calm the storm or add to the turbulence? Do you provide hope to the hopeless or are you hopelessly negative? Are you the model of flexibility and perseverance or do you dither in the comfort of your office?

Are you an Authentic Leader or just someone with a fancy title and position? 

If you’re an Authentic Leader then stop trying to boss your way to compliance and start showing that you trust, understand, and care about your people enough to earn their commitment. If you’re an Authentic Leader then stop trying to control your people and start encouraging and influencing them to commit. 

Controlled people get the job done…barely. Committed people get the job done well, quickly, and completely. People resist control and respond to leadership. 

Authentic Leaders don’t buy into the control myth!

How to Pick a Presidential Candidate

I’ve resisted writing about the debacle that is ongoing in the United States. The debacle known as the Presidential Election of 2016. 

Rather then comment on the remaining candidates individually I thought I’d share with you some of the requirements for Authentic Leadership. You can look at the candidates and decide for yourself if they meet one or more (or any) of these requirements. 

Authentic leaders have core values. They know what they stand for and they do not compromise on those core values for anything or anyone. These core values guide every decision and over time even casual observers will see these core values in action. In fact, Authentic Leaders seldom speak of their core values, instead they display them on a regular basis for all to see.

Authentic Leaders know their strengths and weaknesses. They know what they don’t know and they are not afraid to admit it. They know that admitting a mistake is better than lying about it and they know that lying is usually a bigger mistake than the original mistake they refuse to admit. They use their strengths to their advantage and and they have the courage to allow people smarter than them into their inner circle to help minimize their weaknesses.

Authentic Leaders are genuine. They are honest to the core. They have no hidden agendas and they know that their success is completely dependent upon the success of the people they lead. They don’t lead in order to build better followers, they lead to build more leaders. Authentic Leaders are true difference makers and they leave a positive legacy that outlasts their service as a leader.

Authentic Leaders listen well. They listen to opposing views as much as they listen to supporting views. They let the best idea win no matter where the idea came from. They celebrate the success of others as much or more than they celebrate their own. They have solid, well thought-out plans that include back-up plans and action steps. Their goals and objectives are realistic and attainable. Authentic Leaders are proactive and seldom impulsive or reactive, they have a vision and they are able to earn “buy-in” through their positive influence.

Authentic Leaders have a strong ethical & morale compass. They know what’s right and they do what’s right. They do not play games with language or re-define words to fit their situation. Authentic Leaders know that trust is the foundation of all successful relationships and they work tirelessly to ensure that they never violate the trust of their followers. Authentic Leaders are honest people and they tell the truth even when it may hurt. They value their credibility more than they value winning or living in a tax-payer funded big white house.

So, that’s a bit of what an Authentic Leader looks like. I’d prefer the President of the United States, or the leader of any country for that matter, be an Authentic Leader. I’m not making any judgments here about which of the candidates may or may not possess the aforementioned characteristics, it’s your vote and your choice. Just be honest with yourself.

If you see a candidate that fits the description then you know how to vote. If you don’t, well, I hear Australia is a nice place to live. 

It’s Not About You

The week of April 10-16, 2016 is by Presidential Proclamation, National Volunteer Week in the United States. The proclamation says that this is the week “we celebrate the selfless individuals around our country who channel their civic virtues through volunteerism, and we encourage more people to make service an integral part of their lives.” 

In 2002 Pastor Rick Warren published a book entitled, “A Purpose Driven Life.” It was on best seller lists for years and by 2007 more than 30 million copies had been sold. There were lots of sentences in the book, many passages of Biblical Scripture were quoted and it is a great read to this very day.

Many people, including me, might say that no sentence in the book was as impactful as the very first one:

It’s not about you.

It is a book written by a Christian Pastor but it wasn’t written specifically for Christians. The advice and guidance provided in the book could be life changing for anyone who took it to heart. The book speaks to living your life on purpose for a purpose. I believe we all have at least one common purpose in life and that purpose is to add value to the world by giving something back. 

We give back because life is not all about us.

President John F. Kennedy said “For of those to whom much is given, much is required.” The inspiration for President Kennedy’s famous observation, can be found in Luke 12:48: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.”

You may not think of it this way but your ability to simply read this post demonstrates that you have been given much, at least more than some others. Despite life’s ups and downs most of us really do have a pretty wonderful life. During national volunteer week no one is asking that you give back all that you have been given, you’re only asked to share a little bit of your wonderful life.

Mahatma Gandhi said that we should “live simply so that others may simply live.” That is the essence of giving and of volunteering. Your smallest act of giving, your smallest act of kindness, and your smallest act of volunteering could potentially make a huge difference for someone else, or, it may make it possible for them to simply live.

Just because you may not see the difference doesn’t mean you didn’t make one and just because you may not personally receive thanks for your efforts doesn’t mean that someone isn’t thankful. 

The only real reason you need for making a difference is that you can. You don’t have to change the entire world to make a difference in it. You can make a difference in the world just by making a difference in the life of one other person.

Warren Buffett is quoted as saying, “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” What he meant by that is sometimes it takes a long time for a difference to be seen. You should know that today and always, the tasks you undertake for others will make a difference in their lives someday, whether you get to see it or not.

So this week we should all be planting metaphorical trees, we should water them with additional acts of volunteerism throughout the year and never forget this all important fact: it’s not about you.


Do you Know Enough to Succeed?

So, when do you know enough to know that you can stop learning? 

I have no idea when I’ll know enough to believe that I essentially know it all, or at least know all I need to know. I do know for sure that I still have much to learn, in fact, I doubt I’ll actually live long enough to know as much as I need to.

But I’ve have come across people who do know enough…at least they think they do.

I’ve written before about a marketing consultant who I was thinking about hiring to evaluate the effectiveness of some training we were doing. He noticed the credentials after my name and asked what they stood for. I explained what they were and then said perhaps he might be interested in the marketing certification. He politely told me that he already knew “all there was to know about marketing” so he wouldn’t be interested. 

I knew in that moment we wouldn’t be using his services. Successful people learn something new almost every day and believing that you already know it all can make it very difficult to learn something new. If you can’t learn you can’t grow and if you can’t grow it is unlikely your success will continue for very long.

Recently I had a conversation with a similarly minded person. They have done very well for themselves, advancing up their organization’s ladder very quickly. By anyone’s measure they certainly appear to be a true success….at least for now.

There were a few of us talking and the subject of this blog come up. Someone asked this highly successful person if they subscribed to my blog. The successful person looked a bit puzzled and then said “why would I read his blog, I’m far more successful than he is, and “besides I know pretty much everything I need to know to succeed already.” In defense of this person they did not say it with apparent malice or contempt, they clearly meant me no harm. They simply said it in such a way as to indicate that they truly believed it.

Probably because of what I do for a living I instantly wondered how this person had achieved their level of success with that kind of attitude. I also knew immediately that this person had in fact much to learn. They needed to learn a bit of humility but beyond that they needed to learn that everyone knows something that they don’t. That means that there isn’t a person a earth that we can’t all learn something from. The most successful people know that, they also know that learning never stops. 

In my book the day you stop learning is the day you start declining. I wish nothing but continued success for that highly successful person but it appears they believe they have already reached the pinnacle of their success. Maybe someone should tell them that once you reach the top there is no where to go but down.

If success is your goal feel free to stop learning the moment you think you’ve achieved success. If long-term success is your goal then you need to know that you don’t know enough. You don’t know enough today and you won’t know enough tomorrow.

Keep learning and keep learning from anyone and everything you can. Learning is a life-long endeavor and here’s hoping you have a very long life!