Sunday, August 24, 2008

Optimum Performance: Defrag your life, your business.

Most of us know when our computer is starting to run slow, to gag and to just not work as well as it used to that performing a simple hard disk defragmentation process is often all it takes for our computer to run better and for us to regain our sanity. Now I'm definitely not an IT pro, but I believe the process can take an hour or so and it basically finds all the free space that is in very small chunks and moves it all together in one big chunk. Once that happens, the system seems to have found some sort of freedom, and the computer works like it used to -- much faster and without any hiccups (you know, those things that always make one have to reboot all the time).

Isn't that how it is in our lives sometimes? Things will be going well and then all of a sudden we just don't seem to be getting things accomplished like we used to. A couple of months (or God forbid, years) go by and we look back and it seems like we've barely moved the needle from where we were before. As if we were in slow motion.

And our businesses can be the same way. We can take a quick walk through our offices and with careful observation we could probably find little pockets of "free space" everywhere. If we could just get all that wasted time together in one area, we could figure out how to accomplish the next goal, or get the Client or our Customers something they didn't expect, or spend some time planning for next year. We might be surprised that those pockets of free space could combine to equal a week's worth of time -- but we always say we're too busy for that off-site planning session which could improve team work and create ideas for implementation in the next quarter or next year. Or that we're too busy to take our family away for a short weekend for a little vision planning.

Most of us tend to regroup at the New Year. January 1st seems to be the time when everyone gets refocused on priorities and goals for the upcoming year. That's the time when we rejigger our lives or put everything we're doing through the defrag process. Cutting out the things that no longer serve us well, focusing on the things we want, reorganizing our "free space" to become more productive and to perform at a higher level, whether in business or in our own personal lives.

I encourage you to think of the upcoming Labor Day Holiday in a new light. To focus in on your work and life to make sure you're getting the most out of it. To be sure that what you're doing and how you're spending your time is running at optimum performance and is serving you well.
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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Own your greatness.

I'm getting ready to embark on a new chapter of my career to help people do what Les Brown says, "own your greatness." What inspires me are the people who are seeking more, those who ask "is that all there is?" or "How'd I get here?" or who say "I'd really like to be doing something else." Those who want to do more fulfilling and rewarding work, not being satisfied where they are.

Then there are the people who by most accounts are already successful who need a little boost, too. The CEO who is looking for the next chapter of his/her life who just hasn't stopped long enough to think it through or make it important enough to take action. The author who's already published and sold many books but hasn't figured out how to build his or her internet presence. The Think Tank group that hasn't figured out how to use blogging to collaborate and expand their collective thinking. The small business owner or entrepreneur who needs to take his/her business to the next level.

There are so many things that stop people from what I refer to as "mission critical." I believe it is critical, somehow mandatory, that each one of us fully lives our mission. And I'm talking about in business or in life. Can you imagine? What would it be like if you and everyone around you did nothing but exactly what they were put here on earth to do?

I'm reminded of Paul Potts, the opera singer who won Britain's Got Talent reality TV show for '07. The guy had a voice like that and was hiding out selling cell phones for goodness sake. No confidence whatsoever. Unbelievable. His life has completely changed -- and all of us are the benefactors as we have the wonderful opportunity to listen to the passion in his voice because he chose to own his greatness -- he chose to trade his singing in the shower for singing on the world's stage. There's no way one can listen to Paul sing Nessun Dorma and not be moved. Truly moved. And his humble story just makes him that much more compelling as an artist. And everything he's been through in life has made him what he is today.

The thing is...he's not the only one. There are many more like him. Those of us who hide behind whatever lack of confidence we have in ourselves. Having incredible talent and not even being aware of our amazing gift. And "gifts" are like that...they come so naturally to us that we don't even realize what we've been given. We have to stop, be aware and make the right decisions.

I love what Paul said in his biography, "I was so nervous I was shaking like a jelly, but when I watch that audition back, I can see in my eyes that when I start to sing I go to a totally different place and the nerves just vanish."

What do you do that takes you to a totally different place? Where can you can get lost in doing it and time just seems to stand still in the moment? Where can you feel free from fear? What moves you??? Remember that everything in your life -- all your experiences, successes and failures, happiness and sadness alike -- have been given to you to bring you to this place. This moment right now. Will you choose to own your greatness? Or will you cower and retreat to a place of perceived safety? Be bold.
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Sunday, August 17, 2008

The maturation of Mandela: His 8 lessons of leadership

If you haven't yet read Time magazine's article on on Nelson Mandela, it's an impressive recap on Leadership from the man who's now 90 years young. I've listed 3 out of his 8 leadership lessons that I'm most passionate about -- you can read the article and choose your own.

Lesson #1: Courage is not the absence of fear -- it's inspiring others to move beyond it.

That is so true. Often we have to take some action ourselves in order to help others see that it's o.k. And sometimes it requires great faith in ourselves, our abilities, the unknown and a higher spiritual power. One of the best quotes of all time is from Gandhi, "We must be the change we wish to see in the world."

Lesson #3: Lead from the back -- and let others believe they are in front.

This is a critical leadership lesson. I've seen many leaders make the mistake of always thinking they should be in front instead of drawing out the greatness in others. And they can't even begin to see how and what it costs their companies in terms of creativity, innovation, engagement, speed, client relationships, (I could go on and on). It's like they forget that their role as a leader is to teach and inspire others to lead.

There are two books that I've devoured on this subject, because I felt the authors were humble in their writings, realizing the mistakes they had made and where they had achieved success within their organizations. The first is from Michael Abrashoff, "It's your ship" and the second from Belasco & Stayer, "Flight of the Buffalo." Both books are in my Amazon recommended read list.

Lesson #7: Quitting is leading too.

I don't think we hear this very often in leadership advice but it is good advice to heed. Mandela says, "Knowing how to abandon a failed idea, task or relationship is often the most difficult kind of decision a leader has to make." And I would add that knowing "when" to equally critical.

His 90th Birthday

Quoted from the end of the article... Ultimately, the key to understanding Mandela is those 27 years in prison. The man who walked onto Robben Island in 1964 was emotional, headstrong, easily stung. The man who emerged was balanced and disciplined. He is not and never has been introspective. I often asked him how the man who emerged from prison differed from the willful young man who had entered it. He hated this question. Finally, in exasperation one day, he said, "I came out mature." There is nothing so rare — or so valuable — as a mature man. Happy birthday, Madiba.

Nelson Mandela is proof that one person can make a difference. Let's never stop asking ourselves, each day and each present moment, how we can make a difference in the lives of others. Be inspired by one man's life.
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Friday, August 15, 2008

Exuberance: Where does it come from?

I've really never thought too much about the word "exuberance" until I met a land developer in northern Virginia by the name of John Clark. We were talking about ways to describe his passion for land development and in particular for his vision of Haymount, a new urbanist community near Fredericksburg -- a project he's been working on for many years. It was more than passion and certainly more than joy that flowed from him. He was nearly giddy.

To be exuberant is to be "joyously unrestrained and enthusiastic," according to Webster's dictionary. It's more than just having enthusiasm or passion -- it's more like unbridled enthusiasm that's somehow in one's blood and running through their veins rather than an attitude one professes.

So how do we believe so deeply in our vision -- whether for ourselves or for our company -- that we have this unrestrained joy that exudes from us? Is that possible? Realistically, it's not possible to maintain it through the trials and tribulations of life -- or is it? Is that a choice we have?

I remember Anthony Robbins once talking about achieving the point of "sustained joy." I mentioned it to a couple of colleagues and we all talked about how that seemed so impossible to achieve in one's life. Yet Tony, the eternal optimist and NLP expert, believes it is possible. That if you enjoy and love what you're doing so much, that nothing bars you from the feeling and belief that you are truly doing your life's mission. You know, what God intended you to do in it's closest form. And when we're in that place, we experience that joyfully unrestrained enthusiasm (en-theos = in God) that is better referred to as exuberance.

Have you ever experienced that profound joy in your life? When you just could feel yourself enthusiastic beyond belief? Like you were so happy about what you were doing in your life that you couldn't even see straight?

Could you imagine if we were to feel like that more times than not? Rather than experiencing it once in a blue moon -- we would feel it most of the time? Can you imagine the sustained energy that would be with us if we could only figure out what to do that makes us happiest? It's so simple. Find our life's mission and just do it. Do you know what your life's mission is -- what you were put here on earth to do?
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Monday, August 11, 2008

Take a risk or stay the course. No reward in the latter.

We've often heard that doing something is risky. Our society pressures us to play safe. Stay where you are. Go down the path of least resistance. Don't rock the boat.

Yet boats are made for rocking. And great sea captains never become great sea captains by sailing calm seas. Sometimes we can't see that staying put or playing it safe is the biggest risk we could ever take. That fear of the unknown is the only thing that holds us back from propelling us forward. From reaching our goals. From making the quantum leaps in our lives. Why should we be satisfied with staying where we are? Who says we should just keep plugging along in the bay of mediocrity? What is it that we really fear? Are we fearing taking a risk or what will happen if we step out of our comfort zone -- or are we fearing our own strength and inner power?

This has long been debated but I'm often so inspired by Marianne Williamson's writing...

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us. It’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

-Marianne Williamson
Made famous by Nelson Mandela

When we take a risk, when we step out of mediocrity, when we move away from fear - we often step into the light where we can see more clearly. And not only that, we help illuminate the way for others to do the same, just by our one simple act. When we don't take what so often seems like a risk or the road less traveled, we not only hold back ourselves, but we hold back those around us. Those who could be inspired -- even liberated -- by our actions.

So the next time you're faced with a choice between what appears to be risky and what appears safe, be sure to look at it from all angles before making a decision. Don't be swayed by what society says, or what perhaps a well-meaning parent told you as a child -- don't be pressured to play small. Do accept your own power -- the impact that only you can have -- and light the way for others. With risk comes reward -- a fulfillment beyond measure.
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Friday, August 8, 2008

Leadership that resonates, captures passion

Last week, a colleague gave me a brochure for the upcoming 10th annual Forbes Executive Women's Forum, Building Bridges. Quite a few great speakers on the line up, including Shelley Lazarus, whom I had the pleasure of hearing speak at the DMA last year.

But I enjoyed reading the agenda details for speaker Annie McKee, co-author of Resonant Leadership: Renewing yourself and connecting with others through mindfulness, hope and compassion. The blurb to describe her talk says "What distinguishes great leaders? Exceptional leaders capture passion. Through resonance, leaders become attuned to the needs and dreams of people they lead. They create conditions where people can excel and are able to sustain their effectiveness through renewal..."

There are some great insights to ponder here. Connecting through mindfulness. Capturing passion. Becoming attuned to needs and dreams (which reminds me of the book, The Dream Manager). Sustain effectiveness through renewal not just of others, but ourselves.

Sounds great conceptually. But in our day-to-day world, how often are we as leaders truly connecting with people? How many of us take a moment to find out what drives an individual team member? Or to make "renewal" a part of the team or company's culture? I believe it happens, sure. But most often we're so busy getting work out the door that we're not keenly attuned to people's needs.

There's a lesson here for all of us. That today, we can make an effort to genuinely connect with someone and build a bridge between who they are and the job we're asking them to do. That's how we capture passion and bring it to life. How we resonate with others. Agree?
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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Indecision: The opposite of being bold

"Each indecision brings its own delays and days are lost lamenting over lost days...What you can do or think you can do, begin it. For boldness has magic, power, and genius in it."
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,
1749-1832, Poet, Novelist and Scientist

And that's all I've got to say about that.
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Monday, August 4, 2008

Freedom in a little word called "choice."

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."
- Viktor E. Frankl

Words to live by, literally. If we could only learn to live this lesson -- that we have a choice in our responses to people or situations. We can choose to react or we can choose to respond, the latter often coming to us by delaying the response just a bit. Finding that space to collect our thoughts, take a breath, weigh our options, and choose the best response -- which may be a calm response or no response at all.

And then there's the implementation of the 5 minute rule. That when something is really getting to us that we either do something about it right then and there -- take care of the situation calmly of course -- or we choose to let it go so that it doesn't continue to eat at us, as that's unproductive. The 5 minute rule requires discipline -- and lots of it -- but a good practice nonetheless.

Viktor Frankl understood a bit about growth and freedom and hope -- all things we can choose to live for. He exhibited a higher level of consciousness, which he viewed as sort of an unconscious spirituality. Isn't that what it takes to have freedom in our lives? Our decision or choice to respond versus react to situations almost requires us to reach a bit deeper in our being, beyond the ego mind and into the spirit-filled heart. To think more about others and less of ourselves, even in just that split moment of "space" that Viktor refers to. To allow ourselves the freedom that is ours, if we choose.
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Sunday, August 3, 2008

How powerful is intuition? In business. In life.

Most people would probably agree that we can't run our businesses or our lives on intuition or gut feel alone. Facts, figures, information, competitive environment, past success or failures all play a part in our decision-making. But when faced with a choice where all things seem relatively equal, learning to trust our intuition can be extremely valuable.

There are many successful business people who will tell you how important it is to believe and trust intuition as a guiding factor. Richard Branson, Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates have all admitted that much of their success can be attributed to their ability to sense what's right based on instinct rather than rational processes. Even Einstein wrote that "the only valuable thing is intuition."

John Naisbitt, author of Megatrends, was quoted as saying "Intuition becomes increasingly invaluable in the new information society precisely because there is so much data." So the question is how powerful is intuition becoming as a legitimate and highly recognizable tool in our society? According to a 2006 PRWeek CEO survey, 62% of CEOs use their gut feel when making decisions. And then there are companies who pay $10,000 a month for business intuitionists, like Laura Day, who was recently featured in Newsweek, to help them as an organization become more intuitive, innovative and creative. Obviously, Seagate Technologies and other companies must think it's extremely valuable.

We all possess intuition. Some people have more of an innate ability to pay attention to it and trust it than others, but we can all learn to do that. You probably know people who are very objective in their judgment and then others who are naturally subjective. Or people who tend to be more original and creative thinkers and others who would prefer to simply restate what others have said.

Arupa Testolin, of Intuita, wrote an encapsulating article on the importance of intuition in management decisions. She closed by saying, "Our greatest challenges today will be surmounted by choices made, not from what we know, but from what we don't."
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