Tag Archives: self-improvement

Four Reasons Every Professional Should Have a Strategic Plan for Personal Development

By Tra Williams

Tra Williams

If you are serious about growing your business, everyone on your team needs a strategic plan for their own development that is separate from and exceeds the company’s current needs. Here’s why

Every year millions of business leaders spend days if not weeks collaborating with their peers to develop a strategic plan for their company to execute. Goals are set, tactics are outlined, and information is cascaded to all levels of the organization. If done properly, each department and each person understands their role in the plan and throughout the twelve months that follow everyone strives to do their part.

However, in doing so, they hitch their personal development to the company wagon.

Individuals are more marketable when their skillset advances with its own momentum. Click To Tweet

Without a separate strategic plan for themselves as individuals, they unwittingly limit their development to the skills required to achieve the goals of their employer.  Most don’t think about or realize the limitation because their employer usually acknowledges and rewards them for their efforts. Therefore, their development feels like an accomplishment not a limitation. But here are four reasons why the company-prescribed linear path isn’t enough for the individual or the company.

1. White Space

Great companies build growth strategies around the opportunities that their existing infrastructure affords them.  If every team member develops only in ways and at the pace that their employer’s goals require, then the organization’s growth is limited to the plans that are laid each year. However, if team members are developing with their own momentum, previously unplanned opportunities can be immediately seized. There are no crystal balls, so growth-focused organizations need untapped talent on their bench if they want the corporate agility that unplanned opportunities require.

2. Stronger Partnerships

When potential business partnerships or joint ventures are being contemplated the due diligence should and usually does include an asset assessment—and people are every company’s most valuable asset.  The very nature of new partnerships means growth and change.  Both sides of the equation want to know that the other side has the existing talent that the venture requires.  Imagine how quickly a new business relationship would crumble if the strategy was initiated concurrently with the personnel development required to execute it.

3. Marketability

Individuals are more marketable when their skillset advances with its own momentum. Fortunately, they also add marketability to the company itself. Most business owners have a planned exit strategy that usually involves a merger, an acquisition, or possibly going public; and all three require an investment from outside the company. Investors always expect growth in addition to a return on their investment. Potential shareholders may not examine employee development prior to buying Apple or Amazon stock, but venture capitalists look for companies that have growth opportunities and a talent pool to turn those opportunities into profits. Untapped talent means additional revenue opportunities, and that’s like ringing the dinner bell for hungry investors.

4. Succession

Succession planning is always a fickle challenge. As businesses mature so does their leadership. More often than not, members of the existing executive leadership team are all very close in age. When they begin to hit the retirement horizon a difficult problem arises; promote from within or hire from without.  Hiring externally is always a gamble and studies have shown that it is more cost-effective to develop your own leaders.  A study by the Wharton School of Business showed that hiring externally costs 18-20 percent more than promoting from within and performs worse—at least in the first two years. A Harvard study showed that replacing a CEO with an externally candidate results in an average performance drop of 6 percent. New faces come with unknown consequences and culture is binary; someone may look good on paper but a C-Level exec who is culturally inconsistent with the company can have catastrophic consequences, especially in smaller organizations.

If you are serious about growing your business, every person on your team needs a strategic plan for their own development that is separate from and exceeds the company’s current needs. It is important that each person develop their own plan; it should not be made up of additional expectations prescribed by the company.  However, the company should set parameters for what is included in each person’s plan. For instance, every person’s plan should include hard and soft skills. At least one of their personal development goals should be a hard skill that it is unrelated to their current duties. The plan should also include short and long term development goals. With enough practice, it may only take a few months to become a better public speaker, but it may take years to speak in another language. And finally, every person’s plan should include at least one goal that builds upon his or her previous plan. While not too prescriptive, parameters like these assure development breadth and depth.

We spend a lot of time developing plans for our businesses. And to be fair, most of us work hard to facilitate people development as well. There is a difference, however, between working hard to facilitate something and having a tangible strategic plan that includes tactics and measurable outcomes. The former shows that you care about your people. The latter shows that you recognize personal development is the lynchpin for success.

Tra Williams is a celebrated speaker, business consultant and author of the forthcoming book Feed Your Unicorn. He is a nationally recognized thought leader in small business, franchising, leadership and entrepreneurship. Tra works tirelessly with people, professionals, and organizations to help them define success on their own terms and build the framework required to sustain it. For more information, please visit: www.TraWilliams.com.

Harness Your Professional Power: Be a Victor not a Victim

By Jennifer Powers

Jennifer Poweres- power of choice

Have you ever found yourself making statements like these…?

“I’m miserable at work because my boss is a jerk.”

“I’d work harder if they paid me more.”

“I’d get more work done if my co-workers weren’t always interrupting me.”

”I would get more sales if I had better leads.”

“If the economy were better I wouldn’t be in this financial mess.”

Surely you have. You’re human.

But the truth is, when you make statements like these you are blaming other people, things, and circumstances for your reality being the way it is. You are holding everyone and everything else responsible for YOUR outcomes, feelings, actions, reactions, and choices. And when you do that you’re acting like…wait for it…a victim. Ouch.

If that wasn’t ugly enough, when you choose to play the victim you’re literally GIVING YOUR POWER AWAY to the person or thing you hold responsible for your state of affairs. They don’t even ask for it. You just GIVE. IT. AWAY. Your power is far too valuable to give it away. And hopefully, it goes without saying that if you’re freely giving away your power like that, you’ll find you have less and less on hand to help you reach your professional goals. Oh, and with less power, your performance will suffer too. But you know this, right?

So, here’s something…You’re no victim. YOU are not a victim. Nope. Not you. You’re not a victim … unless of course you choose to be.
That’s right. In every moment of every day you can choose to either play the victim or the victor. In other words, you get to choose to give your power away or hold onto it. Bam.

Choose it. Own it. Be it. Click To Tweet

Want to hold onto it? Good choice.

In order to choose the victor role and hold onto your power, you must be willing to take some responsibility for things. After all, some responsibility must be yours. It’s YOUR reality we’re talking about here. See, once you realize that you own a chunk of the responsibility in any situation, you can then own your power and begin to realize the control you have over the situation. So when you’re ready to be a victor, here are the three areas you’ll want to focus on:

FEELINGS

Victims hold other people and things responsible for the way they feel. They relish in the opportunity to blame their misery/sadness/anger/etc. on others. This keeps them small and powerless. For example, Steve, a long-time bank employee, does this whenever he blames his boss for his frustrations at work. He says if his boss weren’t so demanding, he would be happier at work.

For Steve to step into the victor role, he would have to take full responsibility and ownership for the way he feels. Sure, his boss may be demanding, and he can’t control that. But he can control how he chooses to feel about his boss and his job. Steve could begin to take his power back by asking himself, “How do I deserve to feel?”

ACTIONS/REACTIONS

Victims make no connection between their actions/reactions and their reality. On the flip side, victors understand how their actions/reactions play a part in their reality. 

Karen, a department manager, chooses to play the victim when she gets frustrated that her employees never come to her when there’s a problem. She says that she is always “in the dark.” This frustration obviously keeps her from performing her best. To step into the victor role, Karen could try to identify the connection between her actions/reactions and her employees’ reluctance to come to her when there’s trouble. Karen could ask herself, “What might I have said or done to make my staff feel uncomfortable coming to me?”  

POWER OF CHOICE

Victims believe and act as if they have no choice. Back to Steve. Again, he plays the victim when he says he is “stuck with this job” that makes him so miserable. Steve is obviously forgetting that he is a whole and resourceful being with this awesome super power to choose. The difference here is that victors recognize and exercise their power of choice. They don’t feel stuck. They know that they always have at least two choices. So for Steve to step out of the victim role, he could ask himself, “What choices do I have?” It’s not until Steve recognizes and exercises his power of choice that he can take his power back and have more control over his reality.

So, all of this begs the question, who or what do you tend to blame for your reality, feelings, actions or reactions? What choices are you not recognizing? Not making?

By holding everyone and everything else responsible for your life being the way it is, you are holding yourself back from reaching your full potential. You’re staying small.

And you are not small.

Stop acting like you are.

Take your power back and watch what happens. Watch yourself bloom, grow, and thrive. Watch yourself be your best self. You deserve that. You are a victor and a very powerful one at that.
Choose it. Own it. Be it.

Jennifer Powers, MCC is an international speaker, executive coach, author of the best-selling book “Oh, shift!”, and host of the fun and binge-worthy “Oh, shift!” podcast. Since founding her speaking practice, Jennifer has worked with hundreds of professionals and delivered powerful keynote addresses to over 250,000 people around the globe. For more information on bringing Jennifer Powers to your next event, please visit www.ohshift.com.

The Gift of Feedback

7 Steps to Move from Confrontation to Conversation

By Dr. David Chinsky

David Chinsky-performance problem

Feedback is a gift that anchors your relationships in honesty. Everyone depends upon the feedback they receive to appreciate and reinforce their areas of strength, and to identify areas for personal and professional growth and development.

While there is no question that many people miss numerous opportunities to provide more frequent positive feedback that is specific, timely, and genuine, the bigger challenge for most people is providing constructive feedback that reduces the wall of defensiveness that often accompanies their feedback.

The seven-step constructive feedback process outlined below offers a framework that converts the typical constructive feedback confrontation into a more productive feedback conversation.

Develop a shared understanding about the situation and to identify causes of performance problems. Click To Tweet

The Seven-Step Process

Step 1: Describe the Performance Problem

Employees (or colleagues or bosses) must first understand the problem that you’re experiencing with them before they can be expected to improve. In this step, you should describe the actual performance and/or behavior and contrast it with the expected performance. To begin, simply describe the problem in a sentence or two. Remain as objective as possible and stick to one point—do not talk about multiple performance issues in the same feedback discussion.

Here’s an example:

“Tom, I’d like to talk with you because I’ve noticed that you’ve been late to four of our last five meetings.” That’s it. If you can’t describe the performance problem in 30 seconds or less, you don’t know what the problem is yourself. In Step 1, state the performance problem in a concise, simple-to-understand fashion. There should be no ambiguity as to why you’re having this conversation.

Step 2: Explain the Impact

During the typical feedback discussion, leaders often jump from the description of the problem directly to the development of an action plan. They want to know immediately what the employee is going to do to resolve the problem. To assure meaningful feedback conversations, employees must know how their behavior is impacting others. In this step, convey the unacceptable impact of the behavior, or the unacceptable performance, on colleagues, the organization and perhaps even the individual himself or herself.

Let’s go back to the previous example of Tom being late to meetings, as described in Step 1 above.

Step 2 would continue the conversation with: “When you are late, it causes us to have to stop what we’re doing while everyone acknowledges your late arrival, and this interrupts the momentum of our meeting and lowers our productivity.”

This second step is very important because many times the employee doesn’t even realize his behavior is causing a negative impact. If you don’t describe how his behavior affects others, he might quickly dismiss the problem, saying something like, “Yeah, so what’s your point? A lot of other people are late, too.” So, rather than just talking about the problem of being late, help him understand the impact he’s having by being late. It’s not just the lateness you’re talking about, it’s the diminished productivity, the lack of momentum, the interruption—and some might even say it’s the dishonoring of the punctuality of the other people who arrived on time.

Here’s another example, incorporating both Steps 1 and 2:

“Jen, I wanted to talk with you today because I’ve noticed that you are the first to dismiss the ideas of other members of our team. Before you ask questions and try to understand someone else’s position, you immediately go on the attack.”

That’s the problem, or Step 1, in 30 seconds or less. The impact might be stated as follows, in 30 seconds or less:

“When you are so quick to judge, it causes other members of the team to withdraw and withhold their input because they are afraid that when they speak you’re going to cut them off or give all the reasons why their idea is stupid. This works against the environment I’m trying to create where everyone feels comfortable sharing their unique perspectives.”

Step 3: Identify the Cause

Once you have described the problem and explained the impact, then you can work with the employee to identify the cause of the performance problem you described in Step 1.Don’t jump in and immediately propose what you believe is causing the problem. Let the employee take the lead here. Your job is to ask one good open-ended question that invites him to think about what might be causing his lateness—or what might be preventing her from listening before she shoots down a teammate’s idea.

The goal with this step is to develop a shared understanding about the situation and to identify causes of performance problems. Encourage the employee to discuss the performance from his or her point of view. Once you’ve asked your one open-ended Step 3 question, such as “What’s preventing you from getting to our meetings on time?” or “What is preventing you from asking questions first before becoming critical of others’ ideas?”, your job is to let “silence do the heavy lifting”. Do not give in to the temptation of answering this question for the other person. What you think may be causing the problem is not always the case.

Step 4: Develop an Action Plan

You will develop a more meaningful action plan once you’ve clearly described the problem, explained the impact and identified the cause. If you simply leap from performance problem to action plan, you’ll miss out on a lot of conversation that might help to customize the specific elements of an action plan.

In Step 4, you’re looking for the employee to tell you what he will commit to doing differently to ensure he’s able to get to meetings on time or what she will do to take time to listen first to her colleagues’ ideas before jumping in and being negative.

Step 4 leads to the identification of a solution, a time table for any follow-up actions and an action plan that is specific and measurable.

Step 5: Confirm Understanding

Before the conversation ends, ensure that both you and your employee are on the same page. This is an opportunity for you or the employee to summarize what was discussed, who has agreed to what, and when you expect these changes to occur. If there is any disconnect, you can identify it and resolve it during Step 5—not two weeks or a month down the road when you expect something to be done and then realize you misunderstood each other.

Step 6: Document the Conversation

Take a few minutes to document the conversation, even if this is the first time you’ve had to talk with an employee about an issue—and certainly if it’s the second time you’re having the same conversation. When you document the conversation you’ve had, you’ll have the information available should this develop into a more serious performance management issue.

Step 7: Follow Up to Ensure Satisfactory Performance

More than likely, you or your employee will make some kind of commitment during the feedback conversation. It’s incredibly important to follow up on these commitments. This helps you determine if the employee has actually improved or changed behavior. Your efforts are wasted if you don’t take the time to follow up as needed.

When these seven steps are performed in the order in which they are presented above, you will engage more confidently and effectively when the need arises to provide constructive feedback. In about a minute or less, you will have set up the conversation by describing the problem, explaining the impact and asking one good question to turn the conversation over to the person receiving your feedback. This will ensure that you maintain control of the beginning of these conversations when others may attempt to derail your efforts or move you off point

Dr. David Chinsky is the Founder of the Institute for Leadership Fitness, a celebrated speaker, and author of The Fit Leader’s Companion: A Down-to-Earth Guide for Sustainable Leadership Success. After spending nearly twenty years in executive leadership positions at the Ford Motor Company, Nestle and Thomson Reuters, he now focuses on preparing leaders to achieve their highest level of professional effectiveness and leadership fitness. For more information on Dr. David Chinsky, please visit: www.FitLeadersAcademy.com.

Are You Really Too Busy? Seven Steps to Reclaim Your Life

By Peter Lyle DeHaan , PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Perhaps you’ve heard this story. Imagine you’re sitting in a college class. It’s one of those big classrooms, with tiered seating, able to accommodate hundreds of students. The class is assembled in expectation; what will the prof do today?

At exactly 8 o’clock, he strides in and without acknowledging the classes’ presence, reaches under the lectern and produces a gallon glass jar. He sits it on a nearby table. Then he pulls out a box of rocks and sets it next to the jar. Finally, he fixes his gaze on his students. Garnering their attention, he clears his throat, gestures to the rocks, and asks, “Who would like to show us how much you can fit in?”

Unable to contain himself, an eager-to-impress freshman shoots up his hand. Desiring to make an impression, Mr. Eager-to-Impress carefully places rocks in the jar.

“Is the jar full?” The professor asks.

“Yes!” the students reply in unison.

“Can you fit any more in?”

“No!”

Then the instructor produces a bag of pebbles. The students gasp; a hush falls over the room. Mr. Eager-to-Impress is in a quandary. Should he cut his losses and keep quiet or attempt to salvage his bravado. Hesitantly he raises his hand and then comes forward. With greater care he places a handful of pebbles at the top and by tapping, shaking, and rotating the jar, they make their way to the gaps below. Satisfied with the results, he returns to his chair hoping for the best.

We must guard against becoming so busy dealing with life that we forget to live it. Click To Tweet

“Is the jar full, now?”

“Um, yes,” the students answer.

“Can you fit any more in?”

“No.” Their answer is guarded.

Next the instructor brings out a pail of sand. Many students smile. “How about now?” Eager-to-Impress is not so eager anymore, but feels his fate is already decided. Without being asked, he slinks back to the table and using the same technique, filters the sand through the courser maze of rocks and pebbles. Red-faced, he sits down, anxious for class to end.

The teacher gleefully asks, “Is the jar full now?”

No one ventures a response. Whatever they might say, they fear would be wrong; plus, no one wants to stand out like Eager-to-Impress.

The professor ignores their silence, “Can you fit any more in the jar?” More silence.

With practiced timing, the learners squirm in the hush of the moment. Without saying a word, the teacher reaches under the podium and brings forth a pitcher of water. Some students groan; others laugh. Unable to contain himself, the educator grins. “How about now?”

Slowly he pours the water into the jar, permeating every crevice. He fills it to the top and then overflows it. There’s no doubt whether or not the jar is full.

“What can we learn from this?”

Eager-to-Impress, wanting to salvage something from this debacle, summons his courage and hesitantly says, “It means that no matter how busy you are, you can always fit more in!”

“No,” the professor bellows, pounding his fist on the table. “It means that unless you do the big things first, they’ll never get done!”

I’ve heard several variations of this story. Since I don’t know who wrote it, I share my version with a nod to “Anonymous.”

I’m adept at handling the pebbles and sand in my life, topping it off with an abundant supply of water to make things seem full. However, I must be intentional to handle the rocks, those important tasks. Without deliberate action, I put off the big stuff until tomorrow, attending to life’s minutia, without tackling its priorities.

It’s epidemic; everyone is busy. We’re busy at work and leave to be busy at home; we’re busy in recreation and busier still on vacation, needing to return to work to rest. Our busyness distracts us from what’s important, from what really matters, from those things that could truly make a difference.

I’ve pondered my own busyness and am working towards my cure:

1) Time Management: The thrust of time management is controlling how we spend our time to allow time to do more. This doesn’t bring relief, it just means we’re squeezing more into an already full day. Turn time management on its head, using it to control how we spend our time, so that we do less.

2) Multitasking: When I multitask, I’m not really doing two things at once, but merely quickly switching back and forth. I fear my pursuit of multitasking has only served to make me ADD! Not only is multitasking counter-productive, there’s evidence it messes up our brain.

3) Keep a Time Log: I used to unintentionally irritate my managers by periodically asking them to keep a time log for a week; I’d do it too. They hated it and so did I, but the results were instructive.

Let’s look at some easy timewasters. How much TV do you watch a day? How much time do you spend online? This amounts to hours that could be put to a different use, attending to the big things, not squandered in passive activities of no real consequence. While we all need to relax, if we weren’t so perpetually busy, we wouldn’t need so much time to escape.

4) Just Say No: We tell our kids to say “no” to certain behaviors and would do well to heed our advice. Sometimes it’s wise to say “no” to good things in order to protect ourselves from over-committing and ending up too busy to do anything well.

5) Set Limits: My tolerance for work is about 50 to 55 hours a week. If things balloon beyond that, out of self-preservation I cut back until I again have a tolerable schedule. If I was self-policing to a 55-hour workweek, I theorized I could learn to limit myself to 45. It took some time, but I was able to do it. In looking at my output and quality during those 45-hour workweeks, I saw nothing that suffered. I was also more relaxed, less stressed, and had more free time.

6) Know Yourself: My tendency is to handle the pebbles and sand at the beginning of my day and attend to the rocks in the afternoon – if there’s time. This isn’t wise, as my time of greatest focus and peak energy is in the morning. Ironically, I was handling trivial stuff at my peak while reserving the important tasks for my low point. I’ve noted a similar cycle throughout the week and another that is seasonal. It takes concerted effort, but I strive to prioritize key tasks for peak times, while delegating lesser activities to my lower energy moments.

7) Then Do the Big Things: Once we take steps to control life’s activities, we can attend to the big things. Without the pressures of trivial concerns, there’s freedom to focus on the important, the life altering, and the significant, removing us from the rut that all too easily goes from day to day, week to week, month to month, and year to year—all without noticeable advancement.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is a published author and commercial freelance writer who provides content marketing services.

The 3 P’s to Becoming an Engaged Healthcare Consumer

By Dr. Josh Luke

Josh Luke-healthcare consumerHas your business or startup made a major purchase only to find out later you over-spent significantly? How often are you making this same mistake with healthcare? Moreover, it’s likely that your employees are making this mistake every day, yet they may not even know they have an option.

Unless you as an organization take ownership of educating your workforce, it’s likely your employees will continue to overspend. And remember, if they are overspending their own money then you can multiply that by three to four times for its financial impact on the company. For example, a simple surgery can cost your company 30,000 to 40,000 dollars more if the employee does not choose a Center of Excellence.

It’s very common that a hospital charges 60 percent more for the exact same procedure as a competing hospital directly across the street. To confuse this process even further, would you believe that the same exact doctor will operate on you at either of these hospitals? This is what happens when you are led to believe “your insurance will pay for it.” These are the six words that killed American healthcare. Have a plan that focuses on preventative care, as well as personalized care. Click To Tweet

Your Insurance Will Not Pay For It

When you buy a new car, do you compare features and price? When you buy a house do you shop neighborhoods, school districts and number of bedrooms? Of course you do. Why don’t you do the same when it comes to your personal health? Why are Americans afraid to ask a doctor for a second opinion or just an alternative when a high cost procedure is recommended?

Well, the short answer is that we have been led to believe that our insurance will cover the costs so it’s not important which facility we choose. But that’s dead wrong. Each time an employee chooses a higher cost provider, that costs is added in some form to the following years premium cost to your company, which in turn is passed on to you. Year after year. Its inflation by design! Not your design, but by the hospitals, insurers and pharma companies among others, who benefit from constantly increasing prices.

Become an EHC

It is critical that individuals become Engaged Healthcare Consumers (EHC). How do you personally become an EHC? Start by focusing on the 3P’s to becoming an EHC: Plan, Prevent & Personalize: Have a Plan that focuses on Preventative Care, as well as Personalized Care.

Here are a few steps toward becoming an EHC:

P #1—Have a Plan: The first P is to take control of your health by creating a healthy living Plan. That plan includes your dietary goals, as well as fitness and lifestyle habits. Also, if you suffer from a condition or chronic disease that impacts your health, your plan should include specialized steps to specifically address those needs as well. Your plan should also include several Personalized and Preventative Medicine steps.

Update your plan at least annually, but daily monitoring and tracking of diet and fitness habits are critical in shaping this plan as well. There are plenty of tools available via mobile phone application to track both diet and fitness. Also, research mobile applications available to support you in disease management efforts for any chronic diseases you may have such as diabetes or hypertension.

P #2—Personalized Medicine Tactics: A number of personalized medicine tactics should be considered including DNA testing and genome sequencing, as well as functional and integrative medicine tactics. The more you can learn about how your body differs from others, how your body metabolizes medication and food, and reacts in general to different foods, exercises and lifestyle habits, the healthy you will be. Implement these tactics into you Plan!

P #3—Preventative Medicine Tactics: The second key component of your plan is to utilize the tools, resources and technology available to assist you in monitoring and improving health. From checking your blood pressure, to diabetic management to tracking exercise and dietary consumption, the second key component of your healthy living plan is Preventative Medicine tactics. It’s only a matter of years now before science will identify the exact medication that is best for your condition based on your personal metabolism, known as polygenic risk scoring. At present we are well on our way to that so utilize the tools presently available.

To date there has been little evidence suggesting any link between price and quality in healthcare. In fact, those doctors who engage in the discussion about fair pricing are often getting higher quality scores than the high cost provider. These doctors and facilities that offer lower pricing and higher qualities are known as Centers of Excellence, often referred to as within the narrow network. Once you begin your journey to becoming an Engaged Healthcare Consumer, continue by shopping for healthcare Centers of Excellence. This will save significant dollars for both you and your employer.

So while corporate America has finally stepped up to lead the charge against hyperinflation in American healthcare, individuals can do their part by becoming Engaged Healthcare Consumers. The tactics listed above are simple, and will get start you down your EHC path.

Dr. Josh Luke is a celebrated speaker, award-winning Futurist, a faculty member at the University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy, and author of Health—Wealth: 9 Steps to Financial Recovery. Drawing on his experiences as a hospital CEO, Dr. Luke delivers engaging and entertaining keynotes that teach audiences simple concepts on how individuals and companies can save thousands on healthcare. For more information on Dr. Josh Luke, please visit: www.DrJoshLuke.com.