Reaching the Professional Summit

Three Pillars to Redefine and Understand Success

 By Lei Wang

Stephanie is in her early fifties. She has been a business consultant for twenty years and worked her way up from a junior associate all the way to one of the few female partners in her company. She lives a comfortable life and no longer need to pull all-nighters frequently just to stay “on top” of her work. Though considered rather successful by most people, she is a bit lost as to her next step. Coasting through the rest of her professional life? Early retirement? Do something different? For many years, other than working like mad, she hardly set aside time for herself. Driven by a strong desire for success and the responsibility for taking care of her family, she never entertained the possibilities of other “options”.

Her only daughter recently graduated from college, .Now that her daughter is asking her for career advice, she finds herself questioning her own professional direction. How can she provide her daughter with the best career advice? Also, what’s next for herself?

While launching or furthering your career, knowing what success means to you will help you find greater meaning and happiness. Here are three pillars to help you define success for yourself:Knowing what success means to you will help you find greater meaning and happiness. Click To Tweet

1. Make every achievement personal and measure success against your own effort rather than any external comparison: If you rely on external comparison to validate your sense of success, you may obscure your own perception by comparing yourself to people who are less or more “successful” than you. Or you could be confused as you bounce between being applauded by a full room after a presentation, and being passed over at the next promotion opportunity.

The external criteria used for comparison is frequently random. Yet, as an individual, you long for a consistent and trustworthy confirmation of your worthiness. The only reliable source has to come from you—no other people or commonly accepted social norm.

Every person has a different starting point and different talent. So your success can only be judged against your own effort. What matters is not where you start from, or where you are today, but how hard you are working and how fast you are making progress. Someone starts low but consistently works hard could surpass someone who starts high but only makes a mediocre effort.

Instead of resorting to any external comparison, compare where you are today versus where you were yesterday. Keep an eye on where you want to be tomorrow, and constantly make your best effort day-after-day. Sooner than you realize, you will be surprised to find how high you have reached.

2. The energy and motivation that a challenge inspires in you will make it easier to reach the summit: Be sure not to overachieve at the expense of being able to sustain yourself mentally and physically for the next challenge.

Do not put yourself in a position where you are in the “flow” of your work and resist taking breaks for fear of falling behind. This creates burnout—plain and simple.

You may find yourself at a critical junction that taking a break means failure and render void your previous efforts. But you have to remember, your ultimate goal, your ultimate success, is much further than the goal in front of you. The journey is a long marathon, and the finish line is further than you can see. Keep in mind: even though sprinting to reach that immediate goal in front of you right now may appear to be the most important task, it’s just a very small step in the long journey.

What can you do to prepare yourself for the long-haul to success? What can you do today so you will be better prepared when you face another “critical” moment tomorrow? By taking care of some important—but not yet urgent—issues today, you could avoid making every important issue today an urgent problem in the future. In business, that’s what risk management is for; in combat or competition, that’s what training and rehearsal is for; in your daily life, that’s what learning and taking care of your health and your relationships is for.

3. Success is a journey of constant searching and reconnecting with purpose: Any achievement, no matter how significant it may be, is just a point on this journey. You will have many opportunities for success.

While the only criterion to evaluate your success has to come from within and the journey to success is a long marathon, you still need some “target”, right?

Common goals include reaching a certain number in revenue, scoring a certain position in an organization, or attaining a certain rank in your profession. However, you need to understand that each of those goals is just a point on your journey to success. Those points themselves are not the ultimate success you are pursuing. Just like the measurement of success comes from within, the goal also needs to connect to something within yourself.

The most important question is why? Why are you in this business? Why are you pursuing in your profession? What does reaching those goals mean to you, to your family, to your community? What is the ultimate “goal” you are trying to reach beyond those “points”?

You have to dig deeper to understand your internal drivers, and discover the purpose of your life. Once you “know” the purpose you are serving or pursuing, it will be easier to see how those “points” on your journey connect and where you are heading. Let your purpose be the guide posts on your journey. You will never feel lost no matter if you succeed or fail at reaching that immediate next point, because you always know how to find the next guide post and you know where you are heading to in the future.

Be prepared to go beyond the immediate goal or achievement. Too often we sacrifice long-term success for short-term goals. There are always new summits and new goals. You will reach further faster if you look beyond the summit just in front of you.

Lei Wang is an internationally-recognized 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.

Well Suited: A Practical Approach to Understanding Personalities

By Kostya Kimlat

Kostya KimlatWe’ve been dividing people into four personality types, styles, or patterns since the time of Plato. These days, online personality tests are everywhere. After a number of fun questions you can discover which animal, shape, color or celebrity you’re aligned with. Or take a serious personality test to help identify your management, leadership, or communication style.

If you really want to get to know yourself, you can take a more scientific assessment that not only tells you who you are, but what drives you, motivates you and how people can best work with you. You’ll get thirty-five pages of autobiographical information, which can help you understand yourself.

And that’s great, but when you’re meeting someone for the first time—as you’re exchanging greetings, smiles or handshakes, paying attention and being present—it’s rather difficult to identify them and put them into one of sixteen categories off the top of your head.

And no one ever brings you their thirty-five page assessment and hands it to you like a manual and says, “Here’s who I am and how to deal with me.”If you’re in sales or customer service, reading your audience is critical to your professional success. Click To Tweet

If you’re in sales or customer service, reading your audience is critical to your professional success. This ability has long been a secret of the magician’s success. Magicians are astutely skilled in the fine art of perception and recognizing the individual personalities that comprise their audience.

Next time you watch a close-up magician, pay attention to the audience members and see how they react. There are generally four types of reactions:

  • There’s the excited participant, ready to be blown away by anything.
  • There’s the passive viewer, who is enjoying the show, hoping that they don’t get picked.
  • There’s the take charge A-type that wants to take control of the situation.
  • There’s the skeptical know-it-all who has to figure out the secret.

Now think of the four suits in a deck of playing cards and what images they bring to mind:

  • The Diamonds are shiny and exciting; they yearn to be seen and recognized.
  • The Hearts are compassionate and loving; they wish for everyone to get along.
  • The Spades are quick and strong; they want power and control.
  • The Clubs are very specific; they require attention to detail to be right.

The four suits perfectly align with the Myers-Briggs, DiSC, Merrill-Wilson and the Helen Fisher systems:

  • Diamonds are: Expressive, Explorer, Influence
  • Hearts are: Amiable, Negotiator, Steadiness
  • Spades are: Driver, Director, Dominance
  • Clubs are: Analytical, Builder, Conscientiousness

Once you know which four personality styles align with which suits, you’ll want an easy system to identify which person is exhibiting the behaviors of which suit. To do that, you just need to pay attention to a person’s speed and temperature.

The Speed and Temperature of Suits: What’s amazing about the four suits of a deck of playing cards is that their color and shape connect to a person’s speed or temperature.

First, think of the color of the suits—red or black. When you meet people for the first time, if upon introducing yourself they are open and engaged, they are most likely a red suit—a warm Heart or a Diamond. If they are reserved or withdrawn—acting colder towards you—they are a Spade or Club.

Next, think of the shape of the suits. The Diamonds and Spades have sharp and pointy ends—they move fast and talk fast, just like their edges are fast to draw. They go for the straight line of the situation; they get to the sharp end of the point! So if someone you meet is moving and talking fast, they are a Diamond or a Spade.

Hearts and Clubs are round suits. These people can’t be rushed or pushed to making a decision. They need time. The best way to remember the Clubs is that this suit is very difficult to draw; it requires attention to detail to do it right. So people who are critical, detailed and disciplined—people who require being right—are Clubs.

See how easy it becomes? Just pay attention to how fast/slow and warm/cold someone is. With two questions you’ll have a strong sense of which suit best describes the personality.

  • Warm and Fast? Diamond
  • Warm and Slow? Heart
  • Cold and Fast? Spade
  • Cold and Slow? Club

If you’ve studied other personality evaluation systems you can overlay the four suits over the terms you already know. The four suits make memory recall easier, helping you speed up the entire identifying process. They are a shortcut for your mind.

Depending on your own personality, you may think that this is amazing, or this is all obvious to you. Maybe you’re curious how this will affect others, or maybe you’re ready to put thoughts into actions.

What Hand Were You Dealt? Reacting to the Unique Traits of Suits: If part of your life involves meeting new people, and you want to connect and communicate with them for business or social reasons, there’s nothing better than paying attention to people’s personalities. It provides the groundwork to approach and understand someone. No matter your type, here’s how you can give the people you encounter what they need:

  • If you meet a diamond, provide recognition and attention.
  • If you meet a heart, provide support and approval.
  • If you meet a spade, provide opportunities to take charge and make decisions.
  • If you meet a club, provide opportunities to be “right.”

A great magician provides each of the personalities exactly what they need. For example, he allows the to analyze whether it’s a regular deck of cards. He then lets the decide which card to select by authoritatively shouting “stop!” And he invites the on-stage to receive the attention and credit for seemingly making the magic happen. All the while, he leaves the alone to take pleasure in watching others enjoy themselves.

Once you’re aware of what each suit needs, you, too, can provide each person the right opportunities to thrive, just like a magician.

Shuffling It All Together: Many people have taken personality tests to tell them who they are. But very few people can instantly assess the personality style of someone they meet. Thanks to this magical system, you’re now equipped to do just that.

You don’t have to rack your brain to search for the right word to describe someone. The magician’s method of four suits is simple to learn and easy to use in the real world. When you’re in the trenches of a presentation or negotiation, meeting people and trying to understand them on the fly, utilize the four suits to identify personality types quickly and easily. And then, give them what their suit needs.

The goal is for you to eventually be able to identify the personality styles without even thinking about doing it. Mastering this skill will enable you to be more adaptive to your audience—just like a magician. That will go a long way to help you build that relationship or close that deal.

Kostya Kimlat is a keynote speaker and corporate magician who fooled Penn & Teller on their hit TV show, “Fool Us”. Kostya speaks to businesses about how to Think Like A Magician™ to improve sales and customer service. For more information about Kostya Kimlat, please visit www.TheBusinessMagician.com.

Shoot the Puck

By Peter DeHaan

Author Peter DeHaanI have been following the sport of hockey. Before that, a myriad of other athletic diversions captured my attention. As a youngster, I did what many of my peers did and played Little League baseball. Not that I was good at it or particularly enjoyed it. In fact, after four years of mostly sitting on the bench or chasing an occasional stray ball in right field, I realized that I wasn’t having much fun.

I was merely playing the game because I assumed that was what a kid was supposed to do. My attempts to play baseball did, however, lead to watching the big leagues on TV. In fifth grade, my teacher, a fanatic fan of the Detroit Tigers, planned our school day around the playoff schedule so that she—I mean “we”—could listen to the games during study time. The Tigers won the series and I was won over, becoming a devotee. I faithfully followed the Tigers until their next World Series in 1984. Whether it’s hockey, business, or life, you can’t score if you don’t shoot. Click To Tweet

Shortly thereafter, I moved to Wisconsin. It was hard to be a Tiger fan in Wisconsin; in fact, in was hard to be a baseball fan in the shadow of the state’s beloved Green Bay Packers. In a place where being a “cheese head” is a compliment (note to the uninformed: “cheese head” is the proudly self-proclaimed moniker of the die-hard Packer fanatic) I soon adopted the Packers as “my” team. Although my tenure in the dairy state was short-lived, I continued to be a loyal Packer backer after returning to Michigan.

But it was hard for me to get back into baseball. The player strikes, lockouts, excessive hype, and salary escalations distanced me from the game and left me increasingly ambivalent. Disenfranchised with baseball, I segued to basketball. Although I closely followed the college tournament during March Madness, it was not the defensive prowess of college hoops to which I was endeared, but the faster-paced, higher-scoring professional games. But then, as the showmanship became excessive, I began to seek alternatives.

Throughout these meanderings as an athletic couch potato, hockey was a sport that I viewed as anomalous. I treated it with disdain. It seemed to me that the only activity was skating back and forth, with few scoring opportunities and even fewer goals. I just didn’t get it.

When my son, Dan, began following hockey, I didn’t immediately share in his interest and enthusiasm. One day he asked me to watch the game with him. Inwardly I groaned, but outwardly I agreed, because that’s what parents do for their kids. He made popcorn (okay, so maybe it wasn’t going to be so bad after all) and we plopped down in front of the tube. I watched the play move back and forth, right to left and then left to right. Soon the popcorn was gone, but the players kept up their dance with the puck. My eyes grew weary as one more journey up the ice began.

Suddenly, Dan became excited. He jumped to his feet and exclaimed, “Watch this!” as the puck was guided past the blue line. To me it looked like the same play I had already seen a hundred times during that game. “They’re going to score!” he predicted. The announcers amplified the tone of their play-by-play as they sensed that something important was about to happen. Play proceeded across the red line, then a pass and a slap shot, followed by total bedlam and an energetic high-five from my son. On the second replay, I, too, saw the puck go in the net.

I stared at my son in disbelief. “How did you know?” I stammered in amazement.

“Come on, Dad, you could tell it was going to happen as soon as he got the puck,” Dan replied. Obviously, there was more to this game than I could see. I began asking questions and for the first time in our relationship, our roles reversed and my son became the teacher. I was astonished with how much he knew and the subtleties he comprehended. Under his tutelage, my understanding of the sport grew and with it, my interest and appreciation followed. Over time, I learned about a one-timer, the five hole, power plays, a two-pad slide, and the poke check.

Soon, watching the Red Wings become one of our favorite father-son activities. During one game, we watched an uncharacteristically unproductive power play wind down. “Shoot the puck,” I implored the Detroit offense.

“They didn’t have any good scoring opportunities,” Dan responded.

“But they can’t score if they don’t shoot the puck,” I replied.

Dan paused and gave me a quick glance, followed by a brief look of comprehension before his attention was recaptured by the game. Perhaps I had blurted something profound. After all, it did make sense that if you don’t take a shot, you can’t score.

Regardless whether the sport is hockey, baseball, football, or basketball, playing it safe isn’t going to win too many games and is certainly not what championship teams are made of. How many times have you watched a team build a commanding lead, only to lose the game as a result of becoming tentative and mechanical as they tried to protect their lead rather than build upon it?

This example extends to business. While extreme, make-or-break risk-taking is generally not advisable, tentatively protecting what you have built up will not position you to take advantage of new opportunities that present themselves. You could even squander what you have. Yes, many of your shots may miss the mark, but some will be on target. And those that are will keep you moving forward and propel you to the next level.

The same is true in life. If you expect to coast through your time on this earth, hoping that everything will work out, you will end up sad and disappointed. Intentional and deliberate action is what is needed to reach your potential and become the person you are capable of being. I once saw a poster of a large turtle. The caption read, “Behold the turtle; he only makes progress when he sticks out his neck.”

Whether it’s hockey, business, or life, you can’t score if you don’t shoot.

Peter DeHaan is a commercial freelance writer who provides content marketing services and does ghostwriting.

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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. Every employee plays a role in the company’s performance. Click To Tweet

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. Lasting business leaders also match their vision to their abilities. Click To Tweet

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