I am not big on books or articles that espouse numerical requirements to be or succeed at something. The 7 habits,5Rules, etc. They often suggest inadequacy, and especially as of late it is a tool to suggest “we” belong to a club you are not qualified for. In reading this adaptation from The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons From CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed,” The author, NY Time columnist Adam Bryant seems to take a somewhat different tact by stating “The good news: these traits are not genetic. It’s not as if you have to be tall or left-handed. These qualities are developed through attitude, habit and discipline — factors that are within your control.”
Based on interviews with over 70 CEO’s the book proposes five essentials for success, based on the CEO’s interviewed and what they look for when hiring.
They ask big-picture questions. They wonder why things work the way they do and whether those things can be improved upon. They want to know people’s stories, and what they do.
The C.E.O.’s are not necessarily the smartest people in the room, but they are the best students
You want somebody who is just alert and very awake and engaged with the world and wanting to know more.”
Do they tend to blame failures on factors they cannot control, or do they believe they have the ability to shape events and circumstances by making the most of what they can control.
They understand how teams work and how to get the most out of the group.
The people who truly succeed in business are the ones who actually have figured out how to mobilize people who are not their direct reports.”
A Simple Mind-Set
Yet few people can deliver the simplicity that many bosses want. Instead, they mistakenly assume that the bosses will be impressed by a long PowerPoint presentation….
Even Steve Ballmer CEO of Microsoft, the owners of PowerpPoint says “he understood the impulse in presentations to share all the underlying research that led to a conclusion. But he changed the way he runs meetings to get to the conclusion first.”
They want to know if somebody is the kind of person who takes ownership of challenges or starts looking for excuses.
As they moved up in organizations, the attitude remained the same — this is my job, and I’m going to own it.
Are you comfortable being uncomfortable?
Many executives said fearlessness was one of the top qualities they’re looking for when they were interviewing job candidates.
Chief executives advise that you will be rewarded for fearlessness, because so few people live that way and bring this attitude to work.
Ethan Nichtern, a meditation teacher at the Shambhala Center where I learn and practice is kind of young. I approached our first interaction with a degree of skepticism about learning an ancient tradition from someone so young. However, I quickly became a fan of his down to earth style and uncanny ability to integrate the challenges of modern living, pop culture, and technology with the ancient wisdom of Buddhism. His dharma talk this week had a few key points I thought worth sharing with readers.
Comfort is way overrated. Happiness is way underrated.
He told a story about when he started to come around the Shambhala Center where his father is a meditation teacher. They were listening to another teacher when Ethan looks to his father and asked; “Dad, this guy has been meditating thirty years, he seems a little nuts?” and with a chuckle his father responds “Yeah, you should have seen him before he started.” The lesson being that some of us go to our grave being a little less nuts, others go a little more nuts. All of a sudden a little doesn’t look so bad.
Another point that resonated a great deal; After you spend a weekend at a meditation or spiritual retreat, one often finds you are still the same confused person. However, that is not the kind of talk that gets you on Oprah. That is reserved for the people who promise transformation in an hour, day, or weekend.
There was a lot more to the talk, but that’s for another time. Working on an interview with him for the The Blog.
The Harvard Business Review published an insightful article likening entrepreneurship to a disease. The the articles author Jeff Stibel says “I liken entrepreneurism to a disease. Having it myself, I am not always sure it is a good thing. That so many people wish to suffer from it just tells me they don’t understand it.”
Not unlike people who are passionate about music, art, or science, he points out “Entrepreneurs are all in, all the time. Entrepreneurs love what they do and obsess over it. It is a predisposition; a path that has already been laid for you. It is a character trait, a labor of love, a zeal that cannot be trained, a condition that cannot be treated, an illness that cannot be caught. You’ve either got it or you don’t.”
Here are some questions to see if you have it:
In my opinion, these questions provide more of a context than a clue as to whether you are going to have success. If you take a shower and shave before you leave, it will not disqualify you from success. On the other hand there are many people who can answer yes to the above questions, and have not had, nor never will have the kind of success they seek.
Most people I meet want to be able to answer yes to these questions about something in their life. If it is not human nature, it is certainly a common yearning here in the U.S. to want to feel this engaged and committed to something. For some it is business, religion, painting, music, helping others. – how nice it would be if we got paid for it as well.
You really want to question whether it is in alignment with who you are? Are you wired this way? For me to announce that I am going to become a calculus professor, and to put all of my energy and resources into becoming one; while might be possible, would be a misuse of my talent, skills, and energy. Math has never been and never will be my subject. On the other hand, business, ideas, mindfulness, personal development, strategy, engage my heart and soul. I have stayed up all night, and days on end, and not answered phones when working on these projects. But so does a future rockstar willing to travel from city to city, club to club, for days on end to play in front of live audiences, as does an author at work on their next book. It is this sort of engagement that makes us feel most alive.
These are good questions for anyone considering undertaking something that requires the amount psychic and physical energy it takes to start a business, or be successful at most things. However, some times you will just need to try it and see how much committed you really are.
If morale at your company or organization seems like it is at an all time low, you are not alone. Last week, The Conference Board reported employee morale is at the lowest level since they started tracking it 22 years ago. Less than half of all workers are satisfied with their jobs.
With that news it can’t be a surprise that so many companies are performing poorly. The model of the past looks as if organizations go out of their way to make their employees unhappy. They rule by fear, indifference, and ask you to be grateful for having a job.
Not all companies are bad places to work. Just this week Fortune published their 100 Best Companies Places To Work. Other companies in corporate America are catching on as well. Sue Shallenbarger points out in her WSJ Article ” Thinking Happy Thoughts At Work” , these companies are bringing in coaches and other experts to teach happiness to the employees. Some of the happiness inducing modalities used are meditation, inner peace, gratitude, and other techniques,which have wide ranging influences from positive psychology to Hinduism.
There have been many research studies over the years which show the positive impacts of happy employees, including less absenteeism, lower turnover, higher productivity, and more creativity. So get this, happy employees can improve your bottom line. Try it as an experiment, see what happens.
Here are some tips to get you started:
1. Catch your employees doing things well and right. Then tell them. What we dwell on grows. Focus on what is working well, what people are doing right, and watch things improve.
2. Bring in a coach, or other specialist to empower the people you work with how to be happier. The full impact of a practice such as meditation is not even known, but what we is known is that it reduces stress, clarifies thinking, people have reported being more creative, and feeling more alert.
3. Make a gratitude list every day for what, and who you are grateful for at your organization. Now go out and tell the people on the list you are grateful for them, their work, and their contribution. Be specific. It might be worth sounding a little crazy, to make a real difference.
One of the big challenges I often hear from executives and entrepreneurs is about standing out. Everyone wants to stand out, stand out in their career, industry, job search, community, among the competition, and even in life. I admit, I have even thought about it on more than one occasion.
So last spring when Executive Coach Alan Cohen and I, were invited to present at Fordham’s Graduate School of Business, we tackled the subject head on. Looking at people who do stand out and what are the determining factors. We presented a series of 8 points that if practiced would help you stand out.
Since then, I have had the opportunity to present on the topic a number of times, each time the topic has evolved. Most recently, I presented it to about 45 Business Owners for the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce and TD Bank. As most of my presentations are dialogues, I often learn as much as the audience and it helps shape my views on the topic.
What really has become apparent is that it is not as much about the “how” as it is about the “what”. What are you willing to take a stand for? What are you willing not to compromise on, saying this is what I want? This is what I must have?
Standing out is not something to be achieved, it is not a destination. It is a choice, a way of life, and an attitude. While it can feel lonely at times, it doesn’t separate you as better than. Standing Out ultimately connects you and makes you feel part of. Standing Out can’t really be done alone, and even if it could, it could never be sustained alone.
I see a lot of people who take a stand for personal and professional freedom as an example. They eitherlost their job or get fed up at work, realize they are not being true to themselves and want the independence and autonomy that come with being your own boss.
What are you willing to take a stand for? What is that you are willing to put it all on the line for, in your life? Get clear on that, reorient your life around it, and standing out happens naturally.
Remember, STAND is an attitude and a lifestyle. If your answer is “I don’t know”, consider taking a stand for figuring it out.
Are you one of those people that treat life as a multiple choice test? Do you navigate your life by picking from a pre-existing list of answers; maybe you pick the best answer, even if it is not the best answer for you; or, maybe you just guess the answer, and hope it will work out.
Back in school I think I preferred multiple choice tests, because there was the understanding one of the answers was going to be the right answer. Life is not a multiple-choice test, and there is no assurance the options you are selecting from has the right answer.
Human beings are creators, the mind thinks in pictures. Anything that has ever come to fruition in the world has been a thought, or an idea in someone’s mind first. Why not leverage that part of yourself and create the career and life you want.
You can think of your life as the essay portion of the test, or even an art project. Come up with a visual, or an idea, then sketch it out or write out the narrative. You don’t need the whole picture to begin. Start with what you do know; What do you want your surroundings to look like? Where do you work? What are the people you work with like? What are your feeling? What are you experiencing?
Play with this and have fun. Remember, this is a creative project, use your innate power to create. Think of it as a continuous work in progress, a first draft, an outline, you can come back and revise it, any time.
The strategy to bring out our best is not always what is most obvious. The common approach is to work harder and longer, until you are worn out for the day, week, decade, or your life.
If you could reduce stress, improve performance, and concentrate better from a single activity, Would that give you enough icentive to get your butt out of your office? If you are the boss and realized that you could reduce employee stress, improve thinking, and maybe even impact performance, would you bringyourself to encourage them to for wa lk in the park?
Researchers at the University of Michigan have found that contact with nature, from passive views of nature through windows to walking in an outdoor setting, leads to an increased ability to concentrate on tasks requiring high mental effort.
Nature provides a constant source of energy . Whenever we safely make contact with beauty in nature, these attractions trigger our brain to release Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that produces good feelings that we seek.
Nature can reduce feelings of overwhelm. Studies reveal that through consciously making connection with natural areas, humans have been observed to reverse challenging personal situations (stress, overwhelm, depression and mental confusion.)
Nature can provide stress relief. Research at NASA shows that long distant views – even painted views in photographs and posters – induce a sense of “mental tranquility,” a natural calming down of the mind. Spending even a few minutes in your favorite place on the earth can help to ease the intensity of daily stresses of life. The smells, sounds, colors and textures that surround you in nature have been known to relax the nervous system. The mind slows down so that you can start to access parts of your connection to your inner spirit that you cannot access when there are high levels of stress and tension in your body. The scent of the dirt, the colors of the sky, and the aromas of the plants increase your sensory awareness and heighten your perceptions.
By spending time in your favorite spot in nature, solutions may arise that were not there before, or you may just feel a few moments of peace . Now are you willing to get your butt out of your chair?
I am not sure if it is biological or human conditioning, but it seems that we spend a lot more time worrying or stressing over what might go wrong, rather than expecting something extraordinary to happen. Worrying and stressing are not at the top of my agenda these days, don’t get me wrong, the reality of what is happening in the financial, business, and job markets certainly lend themselves to concern.I am not an economist or finance expert so my understanding of most of what is going on is limited. However, I did decide to do a little research. There have been over 30 recessions since the mid 1800’s. As there is always an expansion after a recession, this means that there have been as many or more economic expansions.
The saying “the best defense is a good offense” comes to mind. There may be as many if not more opportunities during this time. I don’t have advice to offer, just some facts from which you can draw your own conclusions.
During a recession
There are many other opportunities out there, these were just a few to perhaps nudge a shift in your thinking.I saw an interview this weekend with Patricia Routledge the English actress. When she was asked by another actor what she attributed her success to, she said taking risks. If you are successful and you continue to do what brought you that success, you will continue to have the same success. It is by trying something different or new that will bring you the next level of success.
Career Freedom in it’s most basic form is exercising your power to choose, what you do, when you do it, and how you go about doing it. Many like to take the position that they do not have a choice when it comes to their career, that they are some sort of trap because of financial, family or other reasons. They are still making a choice to put whatever it is over the choice concern their work. The key to freedom here is being aware of where you have choices that you previously did not see, and perhaps making different choices.
Career like almost any other endeavor in life, can be looked at as a game. Most people are in career games they did not consciously choose ,or chose for the wrong reasons. Everyone in their family is a doctor, so they became one; or they chose if because it was lucrative, or for one of many other reasons.
They are playing the game of wealth, status, and prestige. A game that has been handed to them. Unfortunately this is a game that relatively few people win. If everyone could win that wouldn’t be very much fun. It is no surprise that so many people suffer from work related stress illness, ranging from discontentment to hatred ,or even depression over their work.
People feel trapped to some degree; they don’t see they can make the decision to start playing a different game. Choosing the game you are in, and what you are playing for is a huge responsibility, it would mean freedom. Pursuing what you want, not what your parents want for you, teachers think is best for you, or the media suggests you should want. In the end this is the only type of game worth playing, a game whose outcome is intrinsically important to the individual playing it.
As in traditional games, not only does winning have to be important to you, but playing well does too. While winning is much more fun, you can still do really well, play great, and not have the highest score. I wouldn’t mind the payout the losing team at the Super Bowl or World Series receives.
Playing to win requires perseverance, courage, and heart, which you can only sustain when something is intrinsically important to you, it connects to who you are at your essence;
So how does one figure this out. I have had clients that figured it out in a couple of weeks and others have taken longer. The process of discovering can be played like a game as well. Before you can even name the game, consider what winning looks like? If you were looking back one year from now, and your situation was perfect what would it be like? What would it feel like? How would you know that you were winning your career game?
What would have to happen for you to win?
Taking this on is not for everyone. It requires a strong commitment and can be challenging at times. After all it were too easy, that wouldn’t be a game worth playing. If you take this path, there will be lots of distractions and pressure to play a game someone else thinks you should play, a game that seems like it has an easy pay off, although it will be on someone else’s terms.
Consider this quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 18th Century German Poet: “Concerning acts of initiative there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: 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 and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius power and magic in it.”
In a feature that aired on CBS News “Sunday Morning” they point out:
The copy machine was invented in 1937, but the idea was rejected by the likes of GE and IBM. It would be 10 years before Xerox’s machine would make its debut. John Grisham’s first novel was rejected by a dozen publishing houses … and Henry Ford went bankrupt 5 times.