Always Seek Knowledge

One of life’s greatest lessons

ASK.  (Always Seek Knowledge)

Why are people reluctant to ask for help?

When we need tax information, we ask an accountant.  When we want to travel, we might ask a travel agent.  The list goes on and on about those we don’t hesitate to ask—but when it comes to our professional questions, we aren’t as comfortable.

According to learning and development specialist Lorie Corcurera, those of us who were encouraged to be independent see asking for help as a negative.  In her article, “Five reasons why you should ask for help at work” Corcurera writes:

Why people often find it difficult to ask for and receive support:

  • Assumption 1: It’s a sign of weakness. If I can’t do it on my own, I must not know how to do it or I don’t have the skills or resources to do it.
  • Assumption 2: Allowing someone else to help me means I lose control of the situation.
  • Assumption 3: If I receive support then I have to reciprocate. What if I can’t return the favor? What if I don’t want to return the favor?
  • Assumption 4: If I ask for the support of others, I am burdening them. They are just as busy as me so how could they find the time to help out?
  • Assumption 5: I am the only one that can do it my way. It’s easier and quicker for me to do it than to train or teach someone else to help me.

One of our clients is the owner and leader of a successful second-generation agricultural company.  He was over his head in trying to move the company forward, and instead of reaching out to others he remained “in his head”, trying to come up with the answers.  Too often he procrastinated, unsure of what to do next.  We encouraged him to seek out the counsel of others; he joined professional organizations for his industry, attended networking groups and began to develop relationships outside the company.  And yes, he asked others to share their expertise.  As a result, he was able to find a new, updated software for his company, obtain a business loan to expand, and found executives with industry experience to come on board.  All that from just summoning the courage to reach out.

“In today’s organizations, you can’t be successful if you don’t ask for what you need”, advises Wayne Baker, a professor of Business Administration at the University of Michigan.  In his article,  “5 Ways to Get Better at Asking for Help”, he offers

5 Ways to Get Better at Asking for Help

  1. Earn responses to your requests by generously helping others in the first place.
  2. Know what you want to ask.
  3. Ask SMARTLY.
  4. Don’t assume you know who and what people know.
  5. Create a culture where asking for help is encouraged.

And finally, wise words from corporate coach Camille Preston, in an article for Fortune entitled, “How Asking for Help Actually Helps You” says that asking for help is what successful people do!

  1. Get over  yourself.
  2. Reframe your thinking
  3. Know about your colleagues
  4. Think about your colleagues
  5. Build Your team
  6. Frame the Ask properly
  7. Get an assistant
  8. DO try this at home.

Are You as Motivated on Monday as You are on Friday?

Accentuate the positive

Even if you love what you do, revving up after the weekend (holidays) takes a little more effort.  

How do you get, stay and maintain a positive outlook and motivation when you’re just not “feeling it”?

We call it the Positivity Diet.  It’s free.  You don’t have to count calories.  And it works.

Some of the go-to practices include positive affirmations, gratitude, and positive self-talk —

However, today I want to share the lazy way to infuse positive motivation in (myself and my) yourself and your team: with an inspiring story.  

Here’s one of my favorites:

During a visit to the NASA space center in 1962, President John F. Kennedy noticed a janitor carrying a broom. He interrupted his tour, walked over to the man and said, "Hi, I'm Jack Kennedy. What are you doing?"

"Well, Mr. President," the janitor responded, "I'm helping put a man on the moon."

--bizjournals.com 12/23/2014

So what is it about the simple exchange that spikes our feel-good brain chemicals?

Perhaps it was the janitor’s feeling of connection to a bigger vision, and his own sense of having a greater purpose. He wasn’t just sweeping the floor; he was committing to excellence in every push of the broom, every task at every moment of his day—knowing that every other member of the NASA team was just as focused on the value of his or her contribution.  He understood that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. 

We often forget the importance of each of our roles in the larger good of an organization.  Whether each action is noticed by another isn’t important; what’s important is knowing that WE notice our own commitment to bringing excellence, honor and integrity to what we do.

This is a quote attributed to Martin Luther King Jr., "If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’ "

Reading bits of inspiration like this seem to remind us that what we do, does matters, that each of us matters---we take a deep breath, stand up straighter, and carry a renewed sense of I want to be more like him or her or them--into each new day.

How do you define “success”?          

The truth about success is:

  1. that it’s different for each of us, and
  2. that success is usually different at different times of our lives. 

The success we want as teens and then as young adults is very different than the success we want in our working years, and retirement.  What matters for you –at whatever life stage you are experiencing—is to learn the proven steps to achieving what you want.

1. Have a vision for your life.  Ask yourself, “What is it that I want right now?”  Make a list.  Salary, job, car, relationship—write it down. One of the questions which seems to help our clients get greater clarity of their vision of success is to ask themselves: if it were a year from today and I am exceptionally happy in my life, what would be happening for me to be able to say that?

Visions can be overwhelming to your brain.  Goals are manageable.  For example, if you want to become a professional (real estate agent, stockbroker, business owner or buy that car), you might begin by stetting some “tangible goals” and then create “action plans” to make them come to reality.

Develop your vision into smaller steps 

2. Tangible Goals: “The dictionary defines tangible as anything that can be firmly grasped, either with hand or the mind. Some of your tangible goals might include buying a new car by 2nd quarter of the year, passing my Real Estate license by February 15th , getting promoted to Director of of my department.  

3. Action Steps: com defines an action planas a sequence of steps that must be taken, or activities that must be performed well, for a strategy to success.

These are some practical examples of “action steps” connected to your goals:

  • Networking and Informational Interviews.  Meeting with others in that industry to find out the process that successful Real Estate professionals use to become successful in their careers. You might have imagined how it might be, but learn the good and bad from others who are living it.
  • What education, training, and certifications are important to become an expert in your chosen field?
  • What networking and attending industry conferences promote for career opportunities

Success takes work.  Numerous people have been credited for this quote including Mark Twain and Vince Lombardi: “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”  There is no one formula for success and usually no short cuts.  Success is earned by visioning, goal setting, planning and implementing that plan. 

Success is not always a straight line.  There will be small failures, glitches and discouraging moments.  Don’t lose sight of your ‘big picture’. You may need to modify or make changes along the way and wonder if you really know what you’re doing.  You’re not alone.  Find an objective sounding board—a mentor or professional coach will help keep you motivated and on track.

Celebrate every success no matter how small.  Every accomplishment deserves acknowledgement.  If you’ve ever joined Weight Watchers, every ounce or pound lost gets applause from the group.  Support yourself when you make progress.

Understand that success changes.  We might acquire that Director promotion and realize that two years from today I would like to become V.P. of my division. a car and find that the next time our sights are set on a bigger car because the family has grown.  What we thought was a successful relationship isn’t as harmonious as anticipated.  Or we are in a chosen profession that no longer satisfies.

Where are Your Company’s Blind Spots?

The Customer Experience:  How does your organization measure up?

Each growing season, my wife Laurie and I enjoy buying seasonal fruits from a local roadside stand. Fresh-from-the-orchard fruit is brought in daily; the shop's walls are lined with baked, canned, jarred and fresh items from both North and South Carolina. Although we are happy with the quality of our purchases, the less--than-special customer service greatly diminishes what we consider our “destination” shopping experience. The store is usually jammed, mostly with tourists passing the exit; sales are transactional to the staff, who seem to have no interest in whether or not anyone comes back. No smiles. No small talk.  Even the simplest questions about produce from the farm they represent are met with disinterested shrugs and I- don’t -know’s.  After one such trip we mused about how little it would have taken for us to make additional purchases if someone had taken the time to engage, educate and entice us with knowledge about the farms, harvest and caring that goes into each juicy bite.  All that hard work to produce the fruit and vegetables, and then a let down at the point of purchase. We wondered if the owners were even aware.

Last week friends of ours mentioned a pizzeria that was relatively new.  It was the second location for this Mom and Pop eaterie, and we were optimistic when we went and the owner claimed to be using his mother’s “authentic” Italian recipes.   We found the food unmemorable after two visits; the other couple also gave up on it citing painfully slow service and a not-so-clean interior.   It made us wonder how a restaurant owner couldn’t see what we saw; just a few days after we spoke these words we passed by and noticed it was out of business.

Then there was my recent experience with a medical specialist; due to the booked-way-in-advance schedule of the specialist I usually see at a particular practice, I took an available appointment with one of his associates.  The appointment was uneventful, and I found the doctor to be very pleasant; when I got home and Googled him, there were at least a dozen online reviews by patients about his offensive bedside manner.  Because of my coaching work in communication, I understood his way of being and knew how to work around it and bring out his human side--but what a shame that the doctor isn't aware of how he presents himself to the world!

In each of the above situations, business owners have what we refer to as “blind spots”, i.e., they are unaware of what is plainly seen by customers.  You cannot hide poor products, service or management.  In fairness to these businesses, it’s not always a lack of caring—but a lack of KNOWING, and training.  Presenting a total package to your end customer is critical to success—whether you’re a large or small organization.

I have always said to clients:

“We don't know what we don't know" 

If you don't know what you're NOT doing right, there are ways to gauge your staff and your customers.

  • If you train once and then become an absentee manager/owner/CEO, we can guarantee there will be cracks in the system. 
  • If you don't set clear expectations, policies and processes, that will come back to haunt you.  
  • If you don't know how to hire really terrific employees to represent your company, then you are missing opportunities to increase the profitability and reputation of your business.  Great products aren't enough in a competitive economic climate--your people are your greatest resource and it's up to you to maximize their strengths. 

What employers want in an employee

Seven Top Attributes Employers Seek in Employees Stand Up and Stand Out

At Institute Success, we occupy an interesting position in the market place. We work with business owners and executives helping them with a process to hire the right person for the right job.  Additionally, we help people with their career management. Some individuals are looking to identify their next job, and some are looking for a total career change.

As a result, it gives us a different eye on the marketplace regarding what businesses look for when it comes to hiring and retaining talent for their organizations.

“We can let circumstances rule us or we can take charge and rule our lives from within” - Earl Nightingale

We’ve compiled this list of the top seven attributes employers seek:

Skills and Knowledge that match the job.

Employers want you to have the right skills and knowledge. Look at the job description. Be honest with yourself. Do I have the right skills? Are my skills transferable for that position? While I’m in the job, has my job description evolved and changed? Do I need to update my skills to fit my new responsibilities? Executives and hiring managers share their frustration about people applying for positions when they are not qualified. Additionally, we will hear from our business clients this question, why aren’t my people meeting our expectations. If you’re currently in the job, continue to upgrade your skills. If you’re a career transition client, go through the discovery process of identifying what you want in your next life adventure. Then create a plan of action to get there.

Effective Communicators

If you want to be successful in your life and your career, it is your responsibility to learn the art and skill of communicating with everyone you encounter in business and in life. Leadership is communication and communication is leadership. Good communicators understand and appreciate that people have different styles  of communicating. Our first session with all our leadership and career clients involves creating an awareness their own communication preferences and how to interpret others.

Positive Attitude and excellent interpersonal skills

Work cooperatively with others. Don’t be that person at work who finds fault with everyone. Bosses don’t like to spend time playing mediator. Don’t discuss your last bad boss, BMW (bitching, moaning and whining) about the previous or current organization and all the incompetent employees you are forced to carry does not score you positive points. And please, don’t discuss the troubles you may be having at home. Employers tell us all the time, “We want a No Drama Zone”. 

Active listener

Learn the skill of active listening. Good listening is much more than being silent while the other person talks. Listen to connect with what the speaker is saying and release your urge to judge them. Yes, they are not perfect; no one is. Periodically ask questions that indicate, you are engaged. Asking questions promotes deeper discovery and insights. Sitting silently and occasionally nodding does not provide evidence you are listening. Asking a good question lets the listener know, that you are not only heard what they are saying,  but that you comprehend it. * HBR article -July 14, 2016 https://hbr.org/2016/07/what-great-listeners-actually-do

Proactive Feedback

Don’t assume because you feel you’re working hard, and you feel you are doing a good job, that your employer “gets it”.  “Check in” with your managers. Make sure you are both in agreement that you are focused on their and the organization’s priorities.

Commitment to the job

Exhibit enthusiasm and a positive attitude. Create a rhythm that they can come to count on. Be loyal. Would you want someone on your team that doesn’t show loyalty? If you feel you cannot, begin the process of looking for another job. Learn new tasks willingly. Demonstrate initiative and maintain productivity. Become a master of your skills. Be open minded to new learning.

Acceptance of  responsibility

Use time effectively. Evaluate your own work and what needs to improve. Make good decision. Deliver results. Consider this to be mural of your life and ask yourself, Am I proud of this painting?

At Institute Success™ our goal is to meet our clients where they are and help them be successful in their career.

7 Communication killers: Are you guilty?

I often say that we all see the world through a different lens. In the same way, we often hear the world through different filters.  Good communication builds bridges; poor communication quickly erodes cooperation and trust.  

Here are some of communication’s greatest enemies.  Are you including these in your conversations?

  1. Are you addicted to being right? Do you share your point of view or debate a point until others feel alienated or beaten into submission?  There’s a lot more to gain from learning to compromise, concede and not make the other person ‘wrong’.   There are many numbers that add up to 9; 4+5, 8+1, 6+3, etc.  Don’t get stuck on ‘your’ way.
  2. Are you paying attention? How can you hear someone if you’re looking at your email, texts or thinking about what you want for lunch?  People know when they’re only being half-heard and it shows a lack of respect.
  3. Are you thinking of your response instead of listening? You’re already formulating your counterpoint or chomping at the bit to make your point—which means you’re not listening to the speaker.  Be present i.e., learn to practice active listening.
  4. Do you interrupt? You may be excited about building on someone else’s contribution, but it’s just not polite to step on someone’s words.  Show some restraint.
  5. Are you judging? We all have filters that help us formulate our opinions.  However, they can predispose us to judge the conversation prematurely.  Make the effort to listen with an open mind, and to ignore those voices in your head that want to discount what doesn’t immediately appeal to you.
  6. Could you be misinterpreting the meaning? Sometimes we just mishear things. We don’t get what’s being said or ‘hear’ it in a way that the speaker didn’t intend.  It could be their words, or how we’ve interpreted them. This is a good opportunity to ask someone to clarify what they mean.  Sometimes we hear one word and it throws us off on the wrong track; a restatement of the person’s point can change all that.
  7. Do you mindread? What’s the point of having a conversation if you think you already know how the other person will respond? It’s better not to assume how another person will respond. Many a good collaboration doesn’t even happen because of mindreading. 

When you know what can stall a healthy exchange of ideas, it’s easier to catch yourself in the act.  Next time you’re ready to speak, be the person everyone leans forward to hear.

Active listening: the skill of a masterful communicator

I love this quote.  It speaks directly to so many issues that people have engaging each other professionally and personally.  Each day we use our words hopefully with great intentions and results.  When communication fails, there is simply a lack of good listening going on between coworkers.

In the movie Avatar, the standard greeting among aliens was, “I see you”.  This greeting captures what is common to every human being:

  • We all want to be seen
  • We all want to be heard
  • We all want to feel connection

Active listening is a simple, brilliant technique that minimizes communication failures and maximizes connection. It takes just moments to learn, and you can practice it every time you have a conversation. 

The 8 steps of Active Listening:

  1. Attending: People can feel our energy even before we speak. Set your body language up for a positive exchange. Start by facing your partner squarely. Adopt an open posture. People can immediately feel if you are engaged or disengaged.  
  2. Listen to connect, not to judge. It’s a fact that our brain’s connectors turn towards each other when they are happy with the conversation; conversely, these neutrons turn away from each other when something is said that offends or upsets us.
  3. Maintain eye contact. Don’t stare, glare or glaze over. When you are engaged in listening, it shows in your eyes. Looking away is not showing respect for what someone has to say.
  4. Be attentive: Often we are so occupied with our own internal conversations that we only pretend to listen.
  5. Grant other participants’ ideas respect. You never know what will inspire you. Or teach you something.
  6. Pay attention to what’s behind the words. According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian’s work, 55% of how people communicate is in their body language.
  7. Learn to be quiet. You can rearrange the letters of the word “LISTEN” it will spell “SILENT”. If you’ve ever been scuba diving, you know that beneath the ocean is a world of life and color. When you are silent, you will be more perceptive about what is really being said.
  8. Summarize periodically. Paraphrase back what you think you heard. Ask clarifying questions. Probe for clarity, it will help fill in the gaps, while letting the other person know that you are wanting to hear their point of view.

By becoming an active listener, you will be perceived as an exceptional communicator.

 

5 Key Activities of an Exceptional Leader

What the organization wants, values and expects from you (even if they don’t say it)

In the book, “Social: Why our brains are wired to connect”, author Matthew Lieberman states that less than 1% of leaders are exceptional.  That’s correct, less than 1%.

A solid resume and competencies are essential to getting the job; however, keeping the job requires what isn’t always in the job description. 

Share their vision

Exceptional leaders are proactive about sharing their vision. Share your vision of success for the organization, the individuals and yourself.  When everyone is clear about the big picture, there is greater role clarity and engagement. Share updates.  If that vision shifts or changes, don’t keep it in your head.  People aren’t mind readers and will resent putting their energy into an outdated plan of action.

Engage others

Exceptional leaders know how to engage others. By “engage” we do not mean that you only assign tasks. Job responsibilities aren’t just about the tasks you are hired to do, but the people you enroll in doing them with you. Leaders must learn to communicate with others in a way that builds buy-in and trust.

Deliver results

Exceptional leaders deliver results. Being ‘liked’ and being knowledgeable aren’t stand-alone traits; you are responsible for meeting the company’s performance expectations.  Make sure you understand what is expected of you, and discuss expectations at scheduled intervals with the leadership team.

Develop others

Exceptional leaders develop others.  Just as you would maintain an investment in a home or car, employees perform best when we invest in their ongoing professional development.  Are you providing your team with upgraded tools, training and learning opportunities?

Model exceptional behavior

Exceptional leaders model exceptional behavior.   Leaders are responsible for setting the example.  Live the examples that you want others to incorporate.  A strong work ethic, integrity, and respect are qualities that will make you a positive role model.  What other qualities do you want your team to emulate?

How to find your success

Hint: It’s not trial and error

When you hear the word “success”, what do you think about?  Does it elicit positive emotions?  Or are you confused about what success means to you?

  • No one sees success exactly the same way. To some it’s professional achievement, to others it’s more personal.  It may be health, wealth, helping others or developing deeper relationships.  
  • What we consider success changes at different times in our lives.
  • As teenagers, success may be popularity, getting a car or good grades
  • In our 20’s-40’s, success may be promotions, more sales, having a family
  • In our 50’s we might see success as security, travel, and grandchildren

Whatever success means to you, there is a proven proven process for achieving it. 

Step #1:  Start with the end in mind.  What do you want? We spend time thinking about things we don’t want, but overlook envisioning what we do want.  Think about what would make you feel successful.  Picture it in your mind.  Imagine how it would feel to have what you want.  Write it down in as much detail as you like.

One of our favorite questions to ask coaching clients is this: “If it was a year from today and you said your life was wonderful, what would have happened to make you say that?”

Step #2:  Develop goals.  Goals are our vision helpers.  They are the stepping stones that we follow to achieve success.  For example, if you define success as becoming a top-selling real estate agent, your first goal might be to get your real estate license. 

Step #3: Action Steps:  You implement your goals through activity.  If you want to get your real estate license, next steps would be to identify the courses you need to take and enroll in a program. 

Breaking things down in this way—regardless of the vision—keeps the human brain from becoming overwhelmed.   Goals and action steps become manageable; as we accomplish each one, we move closer to having what we really want.

 

 

Success takes work. “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”   Both Mark Twain and Vince Lombardi have been credited with this quote.  There are no shortcuts to success. Success is earned by getting clarity, setting goals and implementing a plan and moving to action.

Success is not a straight line.  You can expect discouraging moments and setbacks. Just don’t lose sight of your ‘big picture’.  As you move forward you might need to modify and make changes; sometimes you might even wonder if you’re going in the right direction.  Keep in mind: you’re not the first one to question the path.  It might help you to find an objective sounding board--—a mentor or professional coach will help keep you motivated and on track.

Celebrate every success no matter how small.  Every accomplishment deserves acknowledgement.  If you’ve ever joined Weight Watchers, each pound that someone loses gets applause from the group.  Support yourself when you make progress.

Understand that success changes.  Just when we think we have all that we want, our vision can change. We might acquire a coveted promotion, then realize a couple of years down the road that we might want to acquire a position of even greater responsibility.  There is always something more that we can set our sights on—and the process for getting there is still the same.