To Succeed as a Leader, Share the Big Picture

By Walt Grassl

Walt GrasslMike worked for a medium-sized business and went to work every day happy to have a job. But he wasn’t too enthused about his work environment. Employee morale was so-so because most long-time employees were merely going through the motions.

Greg was a friend of Mike’s from college. They both went to work, but in different industries. They stayed in touch on social media and decided to get together for lunch.

Mike picked Greg up at his work place. He felt inspired when he entered Greg’s building. There was an energy that was hard to describe. It was definitely not the same as at his company. He was warmly greeted by the receptionist and waited in the pristine lobby for Greg.

At lunch, Mike asked Greg about his job and what he liked about working there. Greg mentioned that the company has a management philosophy that every employee is important, like the links in a chain. They believe in sharing information that reinforces that message.

Every employee plays a role in the company’s performance. It is important that they know their role. This gives them a sense of purpose. It answers the question, “Why does it matter?” Some people always take great pride in their work. They know it reflects on them. Some people only push themselves when others are relying on them to do their part. Sharing the big picture helps to get the most out of these people. Getting the small things right leads to bigger success.

Here are five different strategies a leader can use to foster a workplace where every employee feels valued and can contribute to the overall vision of the company.

  1. Include all employees in strategy meetings: To the extent possible, involve employees in strategy meetings. When you are contemplating a change in the company’s direction, modifying one or more processes or seeking new methods to improve delivery, involve the people who perform the tasks before decisions are finalized. They are liable to push back. When they do, use your wisdom and judgement to determine if the push back is valid. If it is valid, figure out a better path forward. This will prevent mistakes that save time and reduce waste. If it is the natural reaction to resist change, deal with it now. You will avoid passive-aggressive behavior that will sabotage the path forward. Done right, you will earn the respect and buy-in of your team members. However, things like impending job actions (layoffs, promotions, transfers) must never be shared until it is time. When you are otherwise open, the need for discretion will be respected.
  2. Stress the importance of every position: A good leader knows how every employee contributes to the overall performance of the company. Some employees interface with customers. Others provide a clean and safe work environment. Some create the finished product. All the employees play a part in the success of the company. Good leaders praise the individuals and the teams, both in public and in private, for the significant contribution they make to success of the organization. This is important. Over time, people who don’t deal with the finished product may forget the significance of their role. They need to be reminded.
  3. See the Big Picture: There is a common fallacy in the workplace that one job contributes more than others to the success of the project or company. It is a great thing when employees realize that what they do is important. It is not so good, however, when the needs of the other employees and other affiliated organizations are discounted. Local optimization can result in less than optimal total performance. Explain to your teams the bigger picture. Look at the needs of the other teams and individuals. Understand the other’s position. Explain your organization’s role and the roles of your internal suppliers and internal customers. Keep focused on the end-to-end process, not only your link in the chain.
  4. Your Business Story: The most powerful story for any business is the story of why the company exists. Who founded the company? What problem did the company originally solve? How did the company evolve into its current state? This works for businesses of all sizes. This is effective in external sales presentations. It is also effective in keeping employees motivated. When that story is known and repeated, employees will realize that they are part of growing or preserving a legacy.
  5. Maintain an open-door policy: When you involve employees in strategy, communicate the importance of the roles of each employee and see both the big picture of the company and the reason why the company exists, your employees will see you as someone who not only talks communication, but communicates. You can further enhance that relationship by having an open-door policy. Set boundaries and let people know, but invite people to approach you with their concerns or questions. Maybe they come to you. Maybe you walk around and catch them doing things right.

When you share the big picture, every employee feels valued. They know they play a role in the success of the company. Job satisfaction increases. It costs little to do this and brings back big returns.

Driving back to work, Mike realized that this aspect of work culture was missing from his company. He thought about his role and how it fit into the bigger picture. He felt better about his job. He vowed to look for ways to help his fellow employees understand their roles in the bigger picture, as well.

Walt Grassl is a speaker, author, and performer. He hosts the radio show, “Stand Up and Speak Up,” on the RockStar Worldwide network. Walt has performed standup comedy at the Hollywood Improv and the Flamingo in Las Vegas and is studying improv at the Groundlings School in Hollywood. For more information on bringing Walt Grassl to your next event, please visit www.WaltGrassl.com.

Enduring Enterprises

Eight Essential Strategies for Achieving Business Longevity

By Jill Johnson

Everyone who starts or leads a business dreams of passing it along to the next generation. But few are successful in making it happen. Every year, countless businesses and organizations fail. Excuses are made and fingers are pointed. Long-term success takes more than hard work and a little luck. Leaders and entrepreneurs who achieve exceptional business longevity share seven business practices that move them to long-term success. They think differently. They operate differently. And they lead differently.

1) Engage in Ongoing Planning with a Realistic Vision: Successful executives and entrepreneurs prepare for success on an ongoing basis, not just when they are in start-up mode. They move beyond their initial business plan to augment their success by leveraging new opportunities and seeking ideas to enhance operations and profitability. They are disciplined in writing down their plans, reviewing them and sharing with their key employees and advisors. They know on-going planning keeps them focused and moving forward. These leaders continually, and formally evaluate, what is working and what needs changing.

2) Establish a Realistic Vision for the Future: Lasting business leaders also match their vision to their abilities. They leverage one success into another rather than rapidly making huge leaps beyond their capabilities. Those who don’t have a realistic vision risk everything because they reach too high before their cash, talent or operational capability is ready for higher levels of success. Enduring leaders actively and effectively manage their transitions and hire sophisticated talent to match their future needs. Their success is sustainable because they build it on a viable foundation that is based in reality not on wishful thinking.

3) Use Disciplined Approaches to Developing Leadership and Executive Skills: Leaders who operate enduring enterprises understand experience is critical; not just with the operational or technical expertise, but also with the ability to lead, manage and weather the daily challenges of not having someone tell you what to do. These leaders understand they need to continue cultivating their ability to manage and create strategies. Those with enduring success continue developing and enhancing their skills to build their business arsenal. They read. They hire the consulting and professional talent they need to augment their internal expertise.

4) Implement Sound Fiscal Management: Fiscal discipline is fundamental to long-term business or enterprise success. Yet few leaders have the self-discipline to manage their cash flow for the inevitable peaks and valleys. They respond to immediate pressures and spend money they don’t have. Too many leaders spend money on the flash and glitz trying to impress people. They never prepare for the future because they’re focused on living in the moment. Some make ill-advised decisions that create financial crises rather than making prudent commitments they can realistically handle. Successful leaders of enduring enterprises focus on building real net worth by being masters at financial discipline and tightly controlling what they spend.

5) Adapt to Changing Circumstances: Markets change and technology advances. Those who are successful over the long-term understand and adapt to change. They invest in people and technology to enhance productivity. They stay on top of competitors and respond as necessary. By continually adapting, they are able to leverage the evolving trends that are fundamentally transforming their industries. Enduring leaders create enterprises that last well beyond their tenure, always looking ahead to identify tools, resources, ideas and technology that can enhance their organizational success.

6) Build Substance into the Enterprise: Businesses and organizations have come and gone over the decades. Some succeeded brilliantly, but most failed to meet the expectations hyped by their founders and owners. The primary reason is lack of substance to the enterprise; most of what was promoted was smoke and mirrors. Sustainable enterprises have substance. They deliver on their promises. Clients, vendors and employees can count on them. These enterprises demonstrate a consistency of product and service quality that can be trusted over time. An on-going reputation for dependability is often a real predictor of long-term enterprise success.

7) Control Growth: Those who survive long-term carefully and deliberately manage the size and growth of their enterprises. Those who focus on growth ensure they have adequate finances, equipment and staff to meet their evolving needs. Those who maintain a smaller size often find they can better manage the stability of their overhead and fixed costs. Maintenance-oriented enterprises may even make more money and have less stress than their growth-oriented peers. Both growth and maintenance oriented leaders who succeed over the long-term effectively manage their appetite for risk and keep business scope within their comfort zone. They maintain leadership enthusiasm through controlled growth or by achieving sustained financial success.

8) Maintain Motivation: Staying motivated is tough in any enterprise after the euphoria of taking over or starting up dies down. Once the day-to-day activities begin to become routine, most people lose their enthusiasm. Even harder is dealing with the real stresses of leadership. Boredom is often a leader’s worst enemy. Leaders of enduring enterprises motivate themselves and their employees by continuing to look for new opportunities to better meet client needs. This provides at atmosphere of innovation and ongoing success measured in revenues, customer satisfaction and employee retention.

Final Thoughts: Leaders who enjoy enduring business success have learned to constantly adapt and evolve. They respond to continuing competitive pressures by finding ways to meet evolving client needs. The secret to long-term sustainable success is doing things with discipline and excellence. Leaders of enduring enterprises both big and small do more than just dream of success. They make their success a reality by taking the actions necessary to achieve it. And make it last.

Are you ready to become a leader of an enduring enterprise? If so, what is the first strategy you need to begin to implement?

Jill Johnson is the President and Founder of Johnson Consulting services, a highly accomplished speaker, an award-winning management consultant, and author of the forthcoming Bold Questions series. Jill helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has impacted nearly $4 billion worth of decisions. She has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results. For more information on Jill Johnson, please visit www.jcs-usa.com

How to Stand Out in Your Professional Life

The Boundless Value of Persistence and Perseverance

By Dave Martin

As the old man stood steadily before the university graduates, they quieted with respectful attention. His years of experience forging a commercial dynasty elicited admiration in business minds from Wall Street to the classroom. He had decades of hands-on wisdom and keen leadership skills honed by the emotionless bottom line of profit statements and the necessity of converting untrained rookies into dynamic producers. The man had seen it all, had been through the fire of business competition and regulation, and he had emerged with one of the leading financial empires of the era and with the well-known respect of his shareholders and employees.

His opening statement to the graduates drew the total focus of the crowd.

“I have one question for you today. Do you want to stand out? As you leave this university and enter the workforce, do you want to distinguish yourself from your competitors? In the business world, you will be evaluated by a different set of standards. You will be viewed through the dispassionate lens of the impact you render. So, what you are about to hear is the most important information you have been given during all your years of education.

“Two qualities are required of both the exceptional leader and the outstanding employee to distinguish themselves from the hundreds of thousands of others in their field. Number one: you must possess integrity. Number two: you must own the traits of persistence and perseverance. To put it simply, you must do what you say you will do, and you must have a consistent, productive work ethic.”

This advice is applicable not only for those starting their careers, but it is also relevant to anyone who wants to set himself apart from his competition and his peers. No longer will your education alone be the differentiator. Your contemporaries are equally educated. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, in 2016 over 3.2 million students graduated with a college degree. Of that number, almost 1.2 million received master’s or doctorate degrees. There is no substitute for education, but just being educated will not provide significant differentiation. No longer will your creativity set you apart; the artist and inventor will starve without a working business model.

To stand out, the formula is simple: integrity plus hard-working tenacity. Half of this blueprint for success is based on who you areyour integrity. The other half is based on what you dolearning the importance of and mastering the practices of persistence and perseverance. It is vital to understand the difference between these two characteristics and then to see how they act fully in tandem. Once that understanding is reached, it is critical to put these traits into practice daily.

The sage Siri will tell you the definition of persistence is the fact of continuing in an opinion or course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition. Persistence is ‘keeping on keeping on’. Persistence is making calls over and over. Persistence is directing your team again and again until excellence becomes ingrained. Persistence is working your plan even when you don’t see immediate results. Persistence is consistent effort, maintained daily.

Calvin Coolidge said, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Persistence is not giving up, or giving in, or giving way. Persistence is not grabbing something new just because it is shiny. Although processes and systems should be continually evaluated for improvements and for effectiveness, persistence is not reorganizing your structures every three months when you see someone else’s success and think you should emulate them. Persistence is not expecting to hit millionaire status immediately. To covet wealth without persistent effort is to have a ‘hope to win the lottery’ mentality. But lottery winners don’t have a stellar track record of keeping their wealth. According to the National Endowment for Financial Education, about 70 percent of people who win a lottery or get a big windfall end up broke in a few years. There is an apparent correlation between the qualities that build wealth and the ability to maintain it. One of those vital qualities is persistence.

Perseverance is doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. Perseverance is continued persistence. Think of it like this. Persistence is the athlete, working out each morning in the gym. He continues to get up, get to the gym, and work his routine, even when he is tired, even when his friends are still sleeping, even when his schedule is interrupted. Perseverance is the lifestyle of working out week after week, month after month, year after year. Persistent running water erodes rock; persevering in that erosion pattern creates canyons.

In short, persistence speaks to continuing in a course of action even against opposition, and perseverance connotes longevity in that persistence. Together, these are the twin building blocks of success.

Do you have these traits of persistence and perseverance in your professional life? In some areas you most likely do. What specific discipline have you consistently performed week after week, month after month, year after year? Perhaps you make a point to turn in your reports a day early. Perhaps you participate in a new employee mentorship program. Perhaps you’ve taken on the responsibility of planning company teambuilding exercises. You are persistent in this activity and your longevity has created perseverance. When you are persistent, you push through adversity, you stick with the project until it’s complete, and you don’t look for the easy way out. The persistent professional will persevere and will live out the familiar quote, “Don’t stop when you’re tired; stop when you’re done.”

Do you want to stand out? The formula is simple, and the rewards are boundless.

Dave Martin, Your Success Coach, is a world-renowned speaker and the international best-selling author of 12 Traits of the Greats and Another Shot. For over twenty-five years, Dave has been a mentor, inspirational speaker, coach, and business leader. Using these experiences, Dave shares timeless truths, wrapped in humor and delivered with passion, teaching people how to pursue and possess a life of success. For more information on Dave, please visit www.davemartin.org.

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The Risky Six

Six Keys to Shed Fear and Take Smart Professional Risks

By Lei Wang

Like all the knowledge and skills that people learn, fear of failure is also learned. And as you age, you gain mental constraints. Those mental constraints remove creativity and replace it with yet more fear.

Fear is perceived risk; it is learned, and it can be unlearned through practice. The ability to overcome fear—to combat fear—is like a muscle. It can be trained and can get stronger through exercise. Through deliberate practice, you can become courageous, and harness your fear to take informed, intelligent, and potentially lucrative professional risks.

1) Harness Fear’s Positive Power: Fear is an extremely powerful emotion—and thus, an extremely powerful motivational tool. When facing fear, the normal response is fight-or-flight. Flight is to let the fear and the worry take control of your mind. Fight is turning fear into a positive risk management response, forcing you to focus and actively do the best to overcome the present situation.

When you take a leap of faith to confront a new career challenge, instead of worrying “What if I fail?” imagine you have no opportunity to back out.

Instead of letting the fear hold you back, take that first step, and turn fear into a positive strength that compels you to focus and to make your best effort.

2) Act Early, Act Decisively: Rather than waiting until your industry or department becomes dispensable, proactively manage your career growth; learn new skills and think ahead of the curve continually to prevent a career crisis from happening.

Anticipate problems and dangers before they occur. Once danger does arrive, it is often too late to do much in response. Act early and act decisively, because waiting diminishes the chances for success.

Practice facing fear by taking chances. Even if you fail the first time, you should try again. Start with a small task, such as a new project, something you have never done. The more you try, the easier it will become to overcome fear. 

3) Separate Probability from Consequences: Many working professionals are afraid of taking risks because the probability of success appears low and the consequences of failure are frightening. When you think about the consequences of a failure, it is important to recognize the difference between the immediate consequences and the ultimate consequences.

Yes, the probability that a new startup will succeed is low, and the immediate consequence could be losing investment money. For any new product launch or new job, there is a chance of failure, and losing your current position. But that is only temporary. Not taking the risk means that the ultimate consequence is failure.

A low probability of success should not be the reason holding you back, as long as the temporary consequences of failure are recoverable. Be more mindful of the ultimate consequence of not taking that chance.

4) Know Your Risk Management Capacity: When approaching a risky situation, some people—often those who have some special talents or experiences—would go all-in and aim to grab the opportunity fast by taking bigger risks. Others take time to build a more solid foundation through each step so they have more control of the risk—at the cost of slower progress.

Which style should you choose? It depends on the situation, your skill, and your risk management capacity. There is no right answer for everyone or every instance.

Consider what the cost and return of taking those risks may be. Think about the alternatives you have and what the risk and return of those alternatives will be. Evaluate what losses you can afford, and consider what the temporary losses and permanent loss might mean. Ask yourself what your options are in the event of a soft loss, a hard loss, or a replaceable loss. Think about how you would recover from these possible losses. Keep in mind ways you could prepare yourself for the best outcome. You have to balance your skill level and risk management ability.

5) Be a Smart Advice-Taker: It can be difficult to measure your own capability against the risk you are considering taking, because it’s hard for people to see themselves completely objectively. But there are mirrors to help you see yourself better. That mirror is the feedback from people around you, such as a mentor, colleagues, or your boss.

Seeking advice is imperative before you take a risk. How do you decide which advice to heed when they conflict with each other? It is important to discern the intention behind each person’s perspective.

Some might be overprotective of you because of emotional attachment, such as friends or family; some may be driven by personal interest. Everyone has a bias; it is important to learn to recognize the value of different feedback. Do not just listen to the feedback that you want to hear. Do not brush aside opposing opinions too easily. Learn to form your own judgment based on those who give you advice.

6) Pushing Too Far vs. Not Pushing Far Enough: The line between pushing too far and not pushing far enough is a fine line, especially when the stakes are high.

In business, not pushing enough causes mediocrity and may eventually lead to a company’s demise. Pushing too far causes burnout and unsustainable growth, or pursuing economic return without regard to the wellbeing of the environment or community.

Managing this delicate balance is a skill that can be learned, like courage and other risk management skills. In order to avoid costly mistakes on either side of the line, you need to learn the skill of heeding the feedback you receive and improve your ability to make sound judgments. Through practice, you can gradually develop objective criteria before real danger arrives, and become better at calculating risks.

Fear of failure is not the reason to avoid taking risks. Of course it’s not smart to jump at every opportunity—you have to calculate and make the best decisions under the circumstances and constraints of your knowledge and vision. Even a calculated risk can prove wrong sometimes, but when you take a chance you have the opportunity to learn and grow. If you are afraid of failure and never risk anything, you will risk everything in the end.

Lei Wang is an internationallyrecognized adventurer, motivational speaker and author of After the Summit New Rules for Reaching Your Peak Potential in Your Career and Life. The first Asian woman to complete Explorers Grand Slam (climb the highest peak on each continent and ski to both poles), Lei channels her experiences to convey a message of perseverance and steadfast determination that her audiences can use at work or at home. For more information about Lei Wang, please visit www.journeywithlei.com.

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Once is Not Enough

 Repurposing Writing to Grow Your Business and Career

By Cathy Fyock

Jeff is a busy executive who has always wanted to become a published author. He’s seen his colleagues’ work published and envied their newfound recognition as authors and thought leaders. Jeff knows that having a book can be a way to stand out from the competition, get speaking engagements, create new revenue streams, and move his business to the next level by providing him with a first class business card.

Jeff is typical of so many business professionals today who know the value of publishing, yet don’t understand how to leverage the value from writing.

The good news is that Jeff can repurpose this writing—that is, he can create content once and use it for many different mediums.

As a professional or thought-leader, you are constantly selling your intellectual property (IP). There’s no reason that IP can’t be repackaged for many different media, like speaking, writing, training, consulting, coaching, and so on. If you can create the content for a major presentation, for example, you can reuse that content for a post on LinkedIn, an article in your professional journal or trade publication, or rewrite it as a component of your book.

Even when you’re focused on the material itself, be aware that you can publish that written material in many forms and formats: blogs, articles, books, training materials, and whatever others make sense for you.

Let’s say that you’ve just written a weekly post of 350 to 800 words. That’s a short piece of content, but even so, there might be numerous purposes for that short bit of IP. The blog post could become part of your next book. It could be incorporated in a new training program. You could tailor it for a specific industry publication—or generalize it for multiple industries. You could write it for staff, and then change it up for managers or senior leadership. 

To begin, here are some steps to follow to discover content that is ready for repurposing.

  • Review materials that you’ve created: presentations, articles, blog posts, workbook materials, or templates, and determine what is relevant and offers value. Create a folder—electronic or paper—that organizes these materials.
  • Analyze where you have used these materials, and what other purposes they might serve. As suggested, a short article published in a trade publication could now be published on LinkedIn. A presentation could become an article. An article can become a chapter in your book.
  • When moving from one genre to the next, you’ll need to see what works and what doesn’t. For example: when converting training materials into a book, you’ll need to flesh out the stories or the narrative that wasn’t written. When turning a short blog into a longer academic article, you’ll likely add research and cited sources and beef up the content. If you move from a blog to a training session, you’ll need to consider how to make the material interactive and engaging to make that material “sticky.”
  • Similarly, but in reverse: a new exercise you develop for a client program could be repackaged and used as a series of shorter blogs, or incorporated into your book. Or, if you’ve already published a book, you could extract chunks of that writing for short blog posts.
  • Is the material current or relevant? Is it evergreen? While your original content was certainly current when it was published, does it still hold water today? If, for instance, your blog post featured Lance Armstrong or Bill Cosby as examples of strong character and leadership (as they once seemed to be), you might need new examples. While most material will retain its relevance, some will become noticeably dated over time—especially if it involves technology or anything else that changes quickly.
  • Does it reflect your own current thinking on this topic? While you may have felt strongly about an issue at some point, more recent events may have changed your perspective or adjusted your thoughts. When your material is published, you want it to reflect your most current philosophies and ideas on the issues—or, so far as possible, the ways you always have always thought and will continue to.
  • Does the material’s thesis fit with your business strategy? If you’re repurposing material to support your business or career, your material should be closely aligned with your business strategy. In other words, whatever you write should serve your business in some direct way: it should bring in customers, raise your position or credibility, or provide you with media attention. Your writing can take you where you want to go, but only if the writing and the thesis which defines it points in the same direction.

If you’ve put blood, sweat, and tears into your writing, then repurposing your writing is a great strategy to ensure you’re squeezing the maximum value out of your own work so that you can realize the benefit of being a published professional.

Activity: Have you been repurposing your writing? Consider the last article, blog post, or chapter you’ve written. What other formats could apply to this writing? Could it become an article, blog post, book chapter, white paper, eBook, special report, workbook, handout, or something else altogether?

Cathy Fyock is The Business Book Strategist, and works with thought leaders and professionals who want to write a book as a business and career growth strategy. She is the author of eight books, including her most recent, Blog2Book: Repurposing Content to Discover the Book You’ve Already Written. To contact Cathy about speaking engagements or coaching support, reach her at www.bizbookstrategist.com.

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